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Keeping Traditions Alive

By Staff | Dec 10, 2008

Gwen and George Stickler have made Christmas their business. Their farm on American Ridge has provided homegrown, cared for, and cut Christmas trees to local families for generations. (Photos by Holly Gallaher)

George and Gwen Stickler, have been selling Christmas trees for nearly 40 years. They not only have been helping families to brighten up their holiday season with beautiful Christmas trees, but more importantly, they have been warming the hearts of children and parents who have been coming to choose and cut their family Christmas trees for over 40 years.

Stickler’s Christmas trees, located on American Ridge, has been providing not only Wetzel County, but areas as far away as Florida, with their popular Christmas trees. For over four decades the Sticklers have been involved in the Christmas tree business one way or another.

As the end of an era slowly draws to a close, the Sticklers can look back on those years and take with them into the future fond memories and a lot of laughs.

Nearly 40 years ago, George was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and was unable to continue meeting the rigorous demands of his job as the Director of the West Virginia Farm Management Commission. He also owned and tended to nearly 50 head of Hereford cattle. Due to health limitations, he was forced to retire from the commission and also from tending his herd.

Left with several acres of land, and a lot of time, George was faced with a dilemma; he needed something to do upon retirement that would not be as physically demanding and that would provide a productive use for all of the available acreage.

After much discussion, it was decided Christmas tree production was a sure fit. “I could catch a Christmas tree,” said George. There was no need to worry about building and mending fences, and the hours were better. George could be doing something productive and would be able to take better care of himself. According to Gwen, it was something to “get him outside of the house”.

The plan, in the beginning, was to develop only a wholesale business. According to George, it was a successful operation for a few years. He not only sold trees locally, but all over the state of West Virginia. He sold trees to organizations in Pennsylvania and even shipped special orders to Florida by way of UPS, much to the dismay of the UPS truck driver.

Over time, word of the Christmas tree farm on American Ridge spread. Families began calling the Sticklers, asking if they could purchase their own, family Christmas tree. People wanted to bring their children and grandchildren to the farm to choose and cut their own tree. George and Gwen thought it was a wonderful idea. The popularity grew and more and more families were coming to find that perfect tree. The Sticklers felt it was a wonderful family activity that every child should have the opportunity to enjoy.

George and Gwen decided to drop the wholesale operation and soon began operating a choose and cut business that would not only provide Christmas trees to many individual families, but that would provide them with feelings of warmth and delight, as well as a sense of doing something worthwhile.

Both George and Gwen are overwhelmed with joy when seeing the faces of children as they jump out of their parents’ vehicle to go in search of that perfect tree, the one that will grace their home throughout the holiday season.

Over the years they have watched children’s eyes light up as they help their parents select a tree, cut it down, and drag it back to the car. “The snowy, cold, and wet days are okay when you witness this,” said George. Adding that there is no “Scrooge” at this time.

George and Gwen Stickler have over the years provided a service to so many that is not widely available throughout the area, at least not anymore. They are one of the last choose and cut operations in the area still in operation. But, all good things must come to an end. No new trees have been planted on the farm for the last few years and George anticipates his operation will be out of business in the next four to five years.

The Sticklers want all who seek a chance to fulfill a childhood dream of bringing their children to the farm, to choose and cut down their family Christmas tree. They want everyone, children and adults alike, to enjoy the experience. After all, that is what it is all about–the experience.

“I don’t care if they come to my cut and choose operation or someone else’s,” said George. Adding that it is more important that children get the chance to do something that is so rare these days, something they will remember for the rest of their lives.

So if you have not yet purchased your Christmas tree this year, or if you’re looking at your artificial one and thinking you could have done better; drive up to Stickler’s Christmas Trees on American Ridge. George and Gwen have a great selection of trees and a welcoming atmosphere for you and your family to enjoy.