White House not alone in choosing NC’s ‘High Country’ for Christmas tree

First lady Jill Biden removes a branch from the official 2021 White House Christmas Tree before giving it to Beau Biden, son of Hunter Biden, at the White House, Monday, Nov. 22, 2021, in Washington. This year's tree is an 18.5-foot Fraser fir presented by Rusty and Beau Estes of Peak Farms in Jefferson, N.C. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

RALEIGH — On Nov. 17, a ceremony was held at Peak Farms in Ashe County, North Carolina, to cut down the official White House Christmas Tree, which will be displayed in the Blue Room during the holiday season. But President Joe Biden and family are not the only one’s relying on North Carolina’s “High Country” in the mountainous northwest of the state for their annual Christmas tree, as the area has become a nationally recognized Christmas tree hotspot.

The farmers honored this year by having their tree selected to be the official White House Christmas Tree were father-and-son team Rusty and Beau Estes. The 18-and-a-half foot Fraser fir was hand selected by the White House gardener from the Estes’ Jefferson farm. Their farm was chosen to be the source of the tree after they were named grand champions of the National Christmas Tree Association contest.

This is the third time the Estes have provided the official White House Christmas Tree, having also done so in 2008 under President George W. Bush and in 2012 under President Barack Obama. This also makes 14 times that a North Carolina grower was selected, with eight of those trees coming from Ashe County alone, according to the N.C. Christmas Tree Association.

Commissioner of the N.C. Department of Agriculture Steve Troxler was present for the ceremony, as was state Rep. Ray Pickett (R-Watauga), who represents the area in the N.C. House.

“Both of us were in the field as they cut it,” Picket told NSJ on Nov. 30, describing his and Troxler’s presence at the ceremony.

Asked about how the Estes family seemed to feel in that moment, he said, “They were just proud to be able to present a Christmas tree to the White House again.”

But Pickett said part of the excitement of having a local tree chosen was that “It just brings more attention to what [the region’s Christmas tree farmers] do,” adding, “They are already one of the top producers, but it just brings more light to the northern mountains.”

Every year, Pickett said there is a steady stream of vehicle traffic to the area before Christmas as people make a holiday tradition of spending the weekend in the Boone area to find a tree.

“Oh, it’s huge. It’s become a tourist destination to come cut your Christmas tree,” Pickett said. “They make an entire weekend of it.”

The hotels and restaurants fill up with those visiting, which he says is a “huge economic impact to the High Country.” And when they leave, it’s clear to see who came for the trees — as they have their pick tied to the roof rack of their car.

“The number of cars I passed today that are coming down with trees on top — I mean, it’s Monday, but I still see a lot of cars with trees on top.”

Pickett says in his home, he has a live tree that was grown in the area as well. But he didn’t have to drive as far with it on his roof rack to get it home.

Gov. Roy Cooper also celebrated the selection of the Estes’ tree, posting a statement on social media, saying, “The 2021 White House Christmas tree was home grown in North Carolina! We’re proud of Peak Farms in Ashe County for being chosen to provide this 18.5 foot tall Fraser fir.”