By Dasha Morgan
Larry Smith, owner of Mountain Top Fraser Fir, in Newland in Avery County has been given the honor of providing the White House with a Christmas Tree this year. On November 19th he with family members—wife, children and grandchildren— will present the tree to First Lady Melania Trump, where it will be placed for display in the Blue Room. A White House committee came to his farm in September to select the tree, and it will be cut November14th to be taken to Washington. As is the tradition, the tree will be brought to the White House on a wagon pulled by horses across parts of Washington, D.C.
Smith was awarded the 2018 Grand Champion designation at the National Christmas Tree Association’s Christmas Tree Contest in Green Bay, Wisconsin, which allowed him this honor. Every other year, the National Christmas Tree Association holds a Christmas Tree Competition. Winners of this competition provide the Christmas tree for the White House. The North Carolina Fraser fir has won this competition more than any other species. Since the beginning of the program established by the National Christmas Tree Association in 1966, a North Carolina tree has won the competition nine times. Beau and Rusty Estes of Ashe County were the contest winners to provide a tree for Vice President Mike Pence’s residence for Christmas.
Smith has provided Christmas trees for government officials many times over the years. In addition his Fraser Firs and wreaths are sold all over the country—up and down the East coast, from Florida, to New York City, and further west to Chicago. In 2015 he provided the tree for the Rotunda of the North Carolina State Capital and in Gov. Pat McCrory’s office. He also grew the tree enjoyed by former Vice President Dick Cheney in 2001 after the terrorist attacks, when he moved from the Blair House to Washington, D.C.’s Naval Observatory.
Smith became a Christmas tree grower, when he was just a teenager. His interest was influenced by Avery County High School assistant football coach Doug Clark, who raised Christmas trees. With money he had earned Smith decided to buy seedlings and plant them on his parents’ property in 1977, his senior year of high school. He set out 250 Fraser Firs and has continued growing trees every year since. Smith became a full-time tree farmer in 1982, and his business has grown considerably ever since.
Smith has three grown sons who were raised on the farm and know life only on a tree lot from Thanksgiving through Christmas. His youngest son works full time in the business, and the others help out during the season. Smith’s older brother Lynn has his own Avery County tree-growing business and has also provided trees for many government officials.
After five attempts in the National Tree Contest, Smith said: “I feel as though I have finally won the Super Bowl. It’s a great honor to represent the Christmas tree industry by providing the Official White House Christmas Tree in 2018.”