Sunday, May 19, 2013
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
Evelyn Bloomhart, left, holds an umbrella for her husband Johan and son Skylar at Christmas Knoll Tree Farm in Rickreall during a brief downpour Saturday afternoon as the family harvested their Christmas tree.
December 05, 2012
Pouring rain put a damper on a weekend Christmas tree hunting expedition?
Not for the adventurous families out at Christmas Knoll Tree Farm in Rickreall and Sunrise Tree Farm in Kings Valley on Saturday afternoon.
Morgan Wojcikiewicz of Monmouth, left, and Kason Bailey of Dallas, both 2, play with festive toys in the shop area of Christmas Knoll Tree Farm in Rickreall Saturday.
"Oh, who cares?" said Dallas resident Kim Bailey, who was visiting Christmas Knoll with her family. "We don't mind it at all, actually."
That's probably the right attitude for residents of Oregon who like to make finding a Christmas tree a family outing.
Christmas Knoll and many other you-cut Christmas tree farms strive to make the tree-searching mission a special holiday tradition for families.
Since 1993, the farm has offered "train" rides -- actually, tractors pulling train car-shaped wagons -- out to the fields. Similar to pumpkin patch hay rides during harvest festivals in October, people can ride the train into the field, find and cut their tree, and ride back to enjoy cookies, cider and hot chocolate in a shop decked out with Christmas decorations and toys for kids to play with.
The cozy shop provided a welcoming respite from the rain. Christmas Knoll owner Suzanne Miller even found towels for those caught in the worst of the intermittent showers.
Kelli Steele helps 5-year-old Ava Stroppel find their location on a map showing different tree varieties and activities at Sunrise Tree Farm in Kings Valley on Saturday.
Family after family braved the conditions to venture out into the picturesque hillside fields.
That's not to say that the heaviest of Saturday's downpours didn't make picking the perfect tree move along a little faster than normal.
"Oh my god, I love it. As soon as we get on the tractor to go out to the field, the frickin' squall hits," said farm visitor Steve Wojcikiewicz, laughing.
"He predicted it," chimed in Abby Wojcikiewicz, Steve's wife.
"I did. I said we are going to go out to breakfast. We are going to sit there the whole time and it will be beautiful outside and as soon as we get out into the tree farm, it's going to start pouring," Steve added.
Along with the Monmouth couple were their two sons, Morgan, 2, and Paul, 6 months.
Morgan was ready for the rain, decked out in a firefighter rain coat and boots. Daddy, in spite of his premonition, however, didn't bring rain gear, thus the family's trip out into the fields was quick.
"We found it (a tree) in about 30 seconds," said Abby, adding it was the first tree they noticed.
The family tried looking at other trees, but the soaking rain turned to drenching rain.
David and Kathryn Stroppel carry their tree past a giant inflatable Santa Claus near the entrance to Sunrise Tree Farm in Kings Valley Saturday.
They decided the first tree looked pretty darn good.
Soon Morgan was playing with toys at the farm's shop and mom and dad were enjoying hot drinks with the rest of the crowd seeking shelter from the torrent of liquid sunshine.
People marveled at their bad luck, but it seemed not even Mother Nature's worst could ruin the day.
"This is a pretty good day for us," Miller said. "Sometimes (Saturday) is a zoo, but it's fun because there's people everywhere and kids everywhere."
The same was true at Sunrise Tree Farm in Kings Valley.
With its giant candy canes and huge inflatable Santa Claus and snowman decorating the fields, the farm was a winter wonderland -- except for the lack of snow falling from the sky.
Eight-year-old Aidan Stroppel finishes off the cut for his family's Christmas tree at Sunrise Tree Farm in Kings Valley Saturday after choosing the perfect Douglas fir.
Kelli and Tom Steele and their son, Brian, have been finding their Christmas tree at Sunrise since they moved to Corvallis from McMinnville seven years ago.
"It's become a family tradition," Kelli Steele said. "The first year we weren't quite sure where to go and we saw this in the (news)paper. When we came out and saw the giant Santa, we were in love."
Sunrise has tractor-pulled wagon rides, a Christmas tree maze and snow castle, a 4-H petting zoo, "reindeer games," a Christmas store, a warming campfire and snacks for guests.
"It's not just about getting a tree," said Steele, adding her family tries to fit in almost every activity in the afternoon visit to the farm. "It's the one trip you make during the season, you might as well make it special."
Sunrise owner Betty Malone said the activities are designed to create a unique experience for the whole family.
Being in remote Kings Valley, between Dallas and Philomath, the farm has worked hard to offer visitors something they couldn't find at farms closer to home.
The Christmas tree maze grew from that effort. Unlike corn mazes, where some of the corn is cleared to create the maze, the trees are left intact and bright red ribbons strung between the trees create the pathways. The maze is big enough that seeing through the "walls" doesn't give away the route, but small enough to allow for a quick escape if rain starts falling.
The design and setup take several days, but it's worth it to Malone.
"I enjoy doing it and I enjoy seeing people having a good time," Malone said. "I tell my staff that it is our job to help people have fun. How easy is that?"
For Kelli Steele and her family, consider it mission accomplished.
"When you drive here, you can see the candy canes from the road and get more and more excited as you get closer," Steele said. "It's like you've been removed from one world and landed in another."