BANGOR (AP) – Mainers who prefer the scent of a balsam fir tree as part of their Christmas tradition turned out at tree farms and corner lots for the most part, but some Christmas tree growers reported a decline in sales.

The dip in Christmas tree sales was in line with a nationwide trend in which sales failed to meet retailers’ expectations.

“We were all concerned because of the uncertainty of the economic conditions,” said Doug Kell, co-owner of Kelco Industries in Milbridge. “The consumer doesn’t have as much money in his pocket, and it costs more for me to get a load of trees to market.”

But growers say most regular patrons were unwilling to skimp on a live tree.

“If they are coming to get a tree, and they always get a 10-foot tree, they are getting a 10-foot tree,” said Joy LaCasce, co-owner of the Finestkind Tree Farm in Dover-Foxcroft.

Going into the season, the National Christmas Tree Association projected an increase in tree sales. But that failed to happen for some growers.

Business was down about 5 percent at Piper Mountain Christmas Tree Farm in Newburgh despite a few extra selling days due to the early Thanksgiving holiday, said owner Jim Corliss.

The biggest enemy of Christmas tree growers remains the artificial tree, which has become more lifelike in recent years. Growers have made adjustments.

“What the (improved) artificial tree has done is held us at a higher standard,” Kell said. “When people before would get a Charlie Brown tree, and be happy to get it, we now have to provide trees to die for.”

Information from: Bangor Daily News,

AP-ES-12-27-07 1514EST

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