Married to a holiday tradition
Kristen Barry points out a possible Christmas tree to wife Shelly Risinger and sons Brycen, 5, and Cobyn Barry, 3, at Pieropan's Christmas Tree Farm in Ashfield Saturday. The family, from Goshen, has been cutting their own trees at Pieropan's for four years.
Frosty the Snowman was there to help Corey Clark of Longmeadow pop the question to Amy Angeloni at Cranston’s Christmas Tree Farm in Ashfield Saturday. Clark took her there “just for a tree” before finding Frosty. She said “yes.”
Brycen Barry, 5, carrys a bow saw as he seeks out the perfect Christmas tree Saturday. Behind him are his 3-year-old brother, Cobyn, and Shelly Risinger, as her wife, Kristen Barry, scouts ahead. The family, from Goshen, has been coming to Pieropan's Christmas Tree Farm, in Ashfield, for four years.
ASHFIELD — With Thanksgiving and Black Friday out of the way, many families checked another holiday tradition off their list Saturday: the annual Christmas tree hunt.
“We’ve come here for our tree every winter for the last four years,” said Kristen Barry of Goshen. “We always get our tree on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.”
Barry, her wife Sherry Risinger, and sons Brycen, 5, and Cobyn, 3, combed the hillside tree grove at Pieropan’s Christmas Tree Farm, looking for their version of the perfect tree.
“I like them short and very full,” said Barry. “And it’s got to have thick branches to hold all of our ornaments.”
“The best part is cutting it down,” said Brycen, holding a bow saw.
Before they started coming to Pieropan’s, the family bought their trees pre-cut from area stores.
“We like to support the local businesses,” Barry said. “But this is much more natural, and we like the emphasis on local agriculture.”
While her family’s tradition is just starting, many have made Pieropan’s an annual stop for decades.
“We have some families who have come here for 40 years,” said Emmet Van Driesche, who runs the farm. “People love the adventure of finding and cutting their own Christmas trees.”
Some of his customers told Van Driesche they’d driven two hours for that adventure.
Pieropan’s cut-your-own-tree grove has covered a Pfersick Road hillside for more than 60 years. Though Van Driesche took over the business just four years ago, some of the trees have been there since the beginning.
The farm uses a traditional, sustainable “stump culture” growing method, which doesn’t require replanting.
“As long as you leave a skirt of live branches (below the cut), you’ll have new shoots,” Van Driesche explained.
After cutting, one of those low branches left on the stump turns into a new trunk, ready to be harvested in a few years.
By the time that happens, Van Driesch hopes to have some help.
“I hope my daughters will want to help out when they’re old enough,” he said. One is 11/2 , the other is 4. “Maybe next year, my oldest daughter will be able to come hang out with me while I sell trees.”
For now, it’s a one-man show, with Van Driesch making wreaths between customers at a roadside stand. Saturday afternoon, he certainly had his hands full.
“This is the busiest weekend I’ve had yet,” Van Driesch said.
Once things calm down, he said he’ll pick out one of the left-behind trees for his own living room.
Down the road apiece, the folks at Cranston’s Christmas Tree Farm were busy as well.
“I don’t know if we’re so busy because Thanksgiving was late this year or what,” said Cynthia “Mrs. Claus” Cranston.
Their lot was full and cars and trucks parked up and down the street, and lines formed at the tree bailer and cash register Saturday.
A light dusting of snow gave the grove a “white Christmas” feel, thanks to the elevation.
Though most people came to Cranston’s for a tree, wreath or other holiday decor, one man had an ulterior motive.
“Earlier this morning, we heard a shriek from the top of the hill,” said Cranston. “A man had just proposed to his girlfriend.”
At the end of the path to the hilltop tree grove, a life-size Frosty the Snowman cutout held a chalkboard with a special message: “Amy, will you marry me?”
“It was a total surprise to her,” said groom-to-be Corey Clark, 26, of Longmeadow. “We walked up the hill and she saw the sign, she thought it was for another Amy.”
Clark played dumb until he and Amy Angeloni, 25, were in the right spot. Then, he took a knee, pulled out a ring and the photographer he’d hired popped out from behind a tree to capture the moment.
She said “yes.”
Clark said the two, together for 3 1/2 years, had talked about marriage, but he led her to believe it was further in the future. The two hope to tie the knot in the summer or fall of 2015.
Clark said they’ll be back to Cranston’s for their trees from now on, and said the selection and atmosphere are well worth the hour-long drive.
Though Clark won’t likely make a habit out of proposing marriage at the tree farm, it is becoming a tradition at Cranston’s.
“We had our first proposal last year,” said Cranston. “A couple that had just moved out here from Utah found us online, and came for a tree. He got down on one knee as if to cut the tree, then turned to his girlfriend, ring in hand, and said, ‘Will you marry me?’”
She said “yes,” too.
The Cranstons had no idea that proposal was coming, but they were delighted to be a part of it just the same.
You can reach David Rainville at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 279