A balsam fir Christmas tree grown by David and Jim Chapman of Silent Night Evergreens of Endeavor was awarded the 2017 Grand Champion at the National Christmas Tree Association’s 2017 National Christmas Tree Contest. As growers of the grand champion tree, the Chapmans have earned the honor of presenting the official 2017 White House Christmas Tree this season. Since 1966, NCTA members have presented the official Christmas tree for display in the White House Blue Room.
Ed Hedlund of Hedlund Christmas Trees, in Elma, Wash., was named reserve champion of the contest. Traditionally, the reserve champion grower has provided a Christmas tree for the residence of the vice president.
Because the contest is held every other year, both the 2017 and 2018 champions are awarded. The 2018 Grand Champion winner is Larry Smith of Mountain Top Fraser Fir in Newland, N.C., and the 2018 Reserve Champion is Russell and Beau Estes of Peak Farms in Jefferson, N.C. These winners will have the opportunity to present the 2018 White House and vice president’s residence trees.
The contest was held in Green Bay in conjunction with the Wisconsin Christmas Tree Producers Association meeting and attracted 21 contestants from across the country; each competing grower having previously won a state contest to qualify. Competing trees fall into five different species categories and are first scored by a panel of judges. Judges are experienced growers and former contest winners representing different geographic regions of the U.S. The top two winners in the species categories are then subjected to a popular vote by convention attendees by secret ballot to determine the grand and reserve champions.
The Chapmans are in familiar territory, having been awarded grand champion status in 1998 and 2003, and presenting trees to President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush, respectively. They have also won numerous Christmas tree contests in Wisconsin.
White House staff members typically travel to the Grand Champion’s farm in the fall to select the tree that will grace the Blue Room. That tree will need to be approximately 18½ feet tall, much larger than the 6- to 8-foot trees entered in the contest. The chosen tree is typically harvested and presented to the White House shortly after Thanksgiving.