LAURINBURG — Each Christmas for the last five decades, many homes throughout Scotland County have owed their holiday centerpieces to the Optimist Club of Laurinburg.
As locals emerge from their turkey-induced stupors and step into the Christmas spirit, this year is promising to be no exception. The club recently welcomed some 300 Fraser firs, freshly-cut from an Ashe County farm, to the tree lot off of U.S. 401 between the Clinton Inn and Taco Bell.
Available trees range in size: from 5 feet to decorate a cozy living room to upwards of 10 feet to grace the grandest of entrance halls. Trees on the smaller end of the spectrum, from 5 to 7 feet, are the most popular and are priced at $40 to $50. Prices for larger trees go up to $150 for an 11-foot specimen.
The club will receive another shipment of about 150 trees before Christmas, and Optimist Club treasurer Mark Ward said that ultimately 90 to 95 percent of trees on the lot will be sold.
According to Ward, the Christmas tree sale is the club’s largest annual fundraiser, typically netting around $15,000 for the benefit of all Optimist’s youth programs. In the last year, the club involved more than 450 children aged 6-12.
“The money is not set aside just to one program: it’s not just for baseball, it’s not just for oratorical, it’s not just for junior golf,” he said. “It’s for all the programs.”
This weekend will begin the tree lot’s busy season, which begins just after Thanksgiving and continues through the first Sunday in December — attracting customers from throughout Scotland and its surrounding counties.
“It’s pretty much a tradition as a community-supported thing,” said Jerry Riggins. “A lot of people continue to come back year after year.”
That support has been going strong since the club’s first tree sale in 1962, with fragrant Fraser firs still popular despite the advent of the synthetic tree.
“Do people use fake trees in North Carolina?” said Optimist member Mark Jones, a recent transplant to Scotland County. “I’m going to drive to Florida with one of these trees in the back. I bought it yesterday and it’s going to be better than any rearview mirror pine tree I’ve ever put in a car.”
The tree stand will also offer decorative wreaths, made from freshly-cut greenery by members of Central United Methodist Church.
The Optimist Club of Laurinburg Christmas tree lot is open from 2-8 p.m. daily, opening at 9 a.m. on Saturdays and on Black Friday.
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.