Christmas tree cutting during the COVID-19 pandemic

"We've had an artificial tree for a couple of decades and decided a real tree was something we needed," said tree owner Matthew Ratliff. 

For Kathryn and Matthew Ratliff, picking out the perfect, real Christmas tree for their home is long overdue. 

"We're finally empty-nesters and have time to do stuff," Matthew said. 

Between juggling careers and raising a family, some things, like a date to Blake's Orchard and Coder Mill in Armada Township got pushed to the back burner, until now.

"It's just nice spending time together, my wife and I and doing things we did years ago when our children were babies," Matthew said. 

The Ratliffs were among dozens of families who bundled up, grabbed a saw, and looked around for a tree to take home Saturday morning. Meanwhile, the staff at Blake's has their system down to a science.

While Blake's is usually busy, Farm Manager, Lonnie Decker, estimates Christmas tree sales have gone up 30% this season. She believes the COVID-19 pandemic has something to do with it. 

"It gave them the opportunity to come out as a family, stay together and do their own Christmas tree cut, enjoy it and build that memory," Lonnie said. 

"People are looking for something to do," said Christmas tree owner Kelly Nemeckay. "It's safe outdoors and it's just some type of family outing."

"A lot of people are just trying to make a more special Christmas at home and make it still fun and create memories," said Christmas tree owner, Sarah Vermihlio. 

As for the Ratliffs, they have another reason for getting a real tree this year. 

"I think it's important to support local businesses and if that means getting a real tree or buy a homemade ornament, I'm all about that," Kathryn said. 

And now, they're leaving Blake's with a new holiday memory - they'll never forget. 

"We're enjoying the empty nesting," Kathryn said. "We are enjoying doing things again, I love it.