FAIR HILL — In late March, Devon Price said there was a knock at his front door. It was a gentleman identifying himself as the head gardener for Rockefeller Center in New York City.
“I had no idea what his intentions were,” Price said Wednesday.
The man wanted to look at the towering Norway spruce trees on his property. Price showed him the largest trees.
He did not know last spring that one of his trees — a 79-footer — would be selected as the centerpiece for the city center celebration.
Price said the gardener — Erik Pauzé — made regular trips to the property.
“All summer long he and his team took care of it, dead wooded it and fed it every couple of weeks,” he said. “Long about early September he said, “This is the one.”
Price was surprised, thinking his tree would be bookmarked for Christmas 2022 or even 2023.
Pauzé said he found the tree during one of his typical wanderings.
“When I went to find trees for Rockefeller Park ... I stayed overnight in the area,” Pauzé said.
He makes a point to stay off main roads and explore back roads and small communities. That’s how he found Glen Farms and the Price’s tree covered property.
John Beachy lived in the Hillwood Road home before the Prices moved in in 1991.
“There’s a lot of great trees on this property,” Beachy said, pointing to a giant redwood close to the road.
The Norway spruce is not only 79 feet tall, but also 45 feet wide at its lowest branches and weighs about 12 tons. Its extraction early Thursday morning drew a large crowd including residents and former residents.
Beachy, his brother Glenn and George Williams — all former residents — had a reunion for the occasion. They spent Wednesday night reminiscing and continued story telling as preparations were being made to cut down the Norway spruce.
“It’s a weird reason for a reunion but it’s been fun,” Glenn Beachy said. “It’s brought the community together.”
They regaled the sledding hill, the basketball court and other ways they entertained themselves while growing up in Glen Farms.
“When we were little we used to run these hills for football drills,” Williams said, adding those drills would include darting around the trees.
Price said Wednesday that cutting the tree down is no big deal, but both he and his wife Julie were teary-eyed as a chain saw loosened the tree from the spot it held for decades and floated skyward.
“It’s a little emotional,” Julie said. “It’s sad but it’s going to be a good thing. It’s going to make a lot of people happy for the holidays.”
“We’ve taken down so many of these trees over the years,” Devon said of the several acres he and Julie own in the Glen Farms community near the Maryland state line.
Price said once the trees get to a certain height there’s a risk of them falling over in a storm and doing property damage.
“At the end of the day it’s at its prime,” Price said.
And it is already leaving a legacy on the property.
“There’s one right behind it. It’s too short yet but it’s gorgeous,” he said. Seven young trees around it were relocated to elsewhere on the property. “One is in a pot ready to take its place.”
When the giant spruce cleared the site that pot was set on the stump, which invoked applause from those in attendance.
Spruce cones are all over the property too, each with the promise of new Norway spruce trees.
“We do have quite a collection,” he noted.
Price said Wednesday that he and his family will undoubtedly make a trip to see the tree once it is erected and decorated.
“We’re going to go see it ... but we’re not sure it’ll recognize us,” he said, adding “it might shoot us the finger.”
In fact, he said Rockefeller Center will send a car for them Saturday and take the Prices to see the tree get erected. They’ll make another trip in December, courtesy of organizers, to see the tree get lit for the first time.
The tree will be erected and lit with 50,000 colored lights and topped with a Swarovski star.
Price said he is happy that the tree, once the holidays are over, will be recycled. Its branches will be turned into mulch for use in city parks.
“The trunk will be milled into lumber for Habitat for Humanity,” he said of the non-profit home building company.
The lumber will come back to Cecil County, he added.
Julie said the thought that her tree would help build houses also brought her comfort.