By ANGIE HAFLICH
When it comes down to it, people tend to opt for convenience over preference when it comes to the decision of whether to buy a real or fake Christmas tree.
"I think it's a generational thing. Younger people tend to go for the fake trees, while older people like real ones," Scott Bauer, general manager of Westlake Ace Hardware said, adding that younger generations are conditioned to prefer convenience.
Bauer said that despite this trend, real Christmas tree sales have increased almost 15 percent over the past three years. Since Black Friday, he said his business has sold one-third of its stock.
"Friday and Saturday were really good days. We probably sold, eight to 10 on each of those days, and it always is. Those first few days, people get in the spirit, especially if the weather coincides," he said, adding that people generally want trees and lights up as early as possible, for maximum impact. "Of course, there are those people who never take them down — a year-long tradition."
While Bauer said that Francis Firs are the most popular, customer Nalesh Kapadia purchased a Scotch Pine. As he and Westlake Paint Specialist Steve Harold loaded it into the back of his minivan, Kapadia said he didn't even mind the mess in his vehicle.
"I always like real things. Fake doesn't even smell. It has a nice, kind of a perfume-like smell all the time," he said.
When asked, more people preferred real Christmas trees because of the smell, but the majority opt for fake trees, for both safety and housekeeping reasons.
"I absolutely love a real Christmas tree, but hate the mess of cleaning the needles up, so I have a fake one," Julia Smith Oard, Garden City, said.
Several people echoed Smith Oard's sentiments. Nicole Lopez, Garden City, said that while she likes real trees, she just doesn't like the mess.
Along those same lines, Patty VanCampen, Garden City, said, "I like the convenience of fake trees. I like the smell of real trees. Convenience wins out."
Jeanette Claassen, Garden City, said convenience is so important to her that she prefers fake trees that look real and already have lights on them.
"I don't have to worry about watering and fire and like the idea of not buying a tree every year. I do miss the smell, however," Claassen said.
Eric Brown, Garden City, who prefers fake trees, offered a solution.
"You can light a candle that has the scent of the real tree," Brown said.
Candles may do little for those concerned with fire hazards associated with real trees, another reason many opt for fake ones.
"Real trees dry up and become a fire hazard," Jamie Martinez, Scott City, said.
Donna Gerstner, Garden City, said she has a fake tree.
"But a real tree is real Christmas," she said.
Greg Cox, Holcomb, said artificial trees are prettier and look like the real thing.
"And you can save a tree in the process," he said.
The idea of saving trees is something that some customers of Wharton's For Every Bloomin' Thing actually do with their Christmas trees every year.
"We have a core group of customers who buy Christmas trees that they can plant in their yards after the holidays," Owner George Wharton said. "We'll have people come in — it's the second generation that did it with their parents — and they do it now. It's normally among the same group or someone who moved here who did it before. Most of it's pretty much a traditional family thing."
Wharton said that most people who have that tradition typically have more land on which to plant the trees, as some types can grow 60 to 70 feet tall.
"To have your kids come back and the kids will watch it grow up and talk about it saying, 'I just put one string of lights on it the first year, and two years later, we're doing three, then five, then we're doing eight strings of lights," Wharton said. "They will always talk about it, and the kids will always come back and talk about that tree and how they watched it grow as the years have gone on."
Other variations can be purchased that grow wide, rather than tall, and some only get 15 to 20 feet tall.
"There are all kinds of different varieties, so when people go in to pick one, they need to pick one that also fits their use," Wharton said, adding that the most popular types are spruce or pine.
Myca Bunch, Garden City, purchased her family's first real tree this year, and after getting it set up, became somewhat startled when she heard a strange noise coming from it.
"I finally figured out the mysterious Christmas tree sound. If a real Christmas tree has baby pine cones on it, when they begin to open up, they make clicking/popping noises triggered by the heat in the house," Bunch said. "No squirrels, beetles or bugs — I can live in my house in peace once again. I'm so happy this one is solved."