National Christmas Tree competition comes to Northeast Wisconsin

A Christmas tree entered in a nationwide contest for growers is seen in Ashwaubenon Aug. 18, 2017. (WLUK/Robert Hornacek)

UPDATE: The winner of the 2017 National Grand Champion is Silent Night Evergreens; Jim and David Chapman, Endeavor, WI.

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ASHWAUBENON (WLUK) -- You've heard of Christmas in July. In Ashwaubenon, it’s Christmas in August.

Nearly two dozen Christmas tree farmers from across the country gathered at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center for a chance to go the White House.

It’s all part of the National Christmas Tree Contest.

“We have competitors literally from across the country,” said Marsha Gray from the National Christmas Tree Association.

The winning tree farm will have the honor of providing the official White House Christmas Tree.

“To be considered the best in your industry is really special. Then, to be able to go to the White House is the cherry on top,” Gray said.

Paul Battaglia is one of the judges.

“I like this particular tree because it does have a lot of definition in the branches and places to hang your ornaments,” Battaglia said as he examined one of the trees.

Ed Hedlund, who runs Hedlund Trees in Washington State, is one of the 21 finalists.

“There's nothing like a real Christmas tree,” Hedlund said.

Hedlund and his family were checking out trees in the Wisconsin State competition which is being held in conjunction with the national event.

“A little bit different looking at the trees. Of course, I'm partial to Washington State. I think our trees are nicer but they would argue with me on that,” Hedlund said.

Diane Chapman from Silent Night Evergreens in central Wisconsin is another finalist for the White House competition.

“We just love Christmas trees,” she said. “This is just a way to show the best of the best. It's so exciting. You want that challenge. You want to be that grand champion of course.”

“You gotta have a pretty dog gone good tree,” said Dave Vander Velden from Whispering Pines Tree Farm in Oconto. His farm provided the White House tree last year.

“It's like winning the Super Bowl, winning a gold medal at the Olympics. Kind of like you're at the top of your game. It doesn't get any better,” Vander Velden said.

Christmas may be four months away, but the Christmas spirit is clearly alive and well in Ashwaubenon.

“It's Christmas and we want to share that joy and friendship with everyone,” Gray said.

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