It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
On street corners throughout the area, tents that will shelter this season's Christmas trees are popping up like umbrellas on a rainy day.
Tree merchants are gearing up for the flood of Christmas tree sales, which will begin as soon as the first tree is staked out.
"We'll start selling them (tonight) when we put them up, but we'll really start the day after Thanksgiving - that's the kickoff," said Glenn Brown, who runs three area stands under the name Snowy Mountain Christmas Trees with his wife, Lynn, and several family members.
"But we have to get set up before then. We've gotten caught before with our lot half-open and people coming to buy."
Mr. Brown, who also operates Brown's Feed & Seed in Evans, harvests Frasier Fir and Blue Spruce trees from his farm in Ashe County, N.C.
The trees - which range from 3 feet to 14 feet and from $40 to $60 - are on his lot within two to three days of cutting, he said. Freshness and shape are the main qualities people shop for in a tree, but larger homes with higher ceilings have boosted the market for bigger trees, he said.
Though it's always the same day on the calendar, Mr. Brown agrees that the Christmas season seems to come earlier each year.
"It's not that I want to open up earlier," he said. "It used to be that we didn't start selling until two or three days after Thanksgiving. But the day after Thanksgiving has become the biggest shopping day of the year."
On Columbia Road in Martinez, Santa's Christmas Shop opened Nov. 1. But the store's owner, Billy Jackson, said he'll wait until Friday to bring in Santa and his reindeer.
"We've always grown up with Santa coming the day after Thanksgiving, so that's what we've continued to do," he said. "We try to keep things traditional."
At Expressway Landscape Products at the corner of Pleasant Home Road and Bobby Jones Expressway, two men spent their time Monday whitewashing wooden reindeer.
They are waiting for their shipment of 700 to 1,000 Balsam Firs from Canada. A nationwide cold snap has cast doubt on when the shipment will arrive.
They should be here "Wednesday or Thursday hopefully, if we don't get snowed in," Keith Schilling said. He's looking forward to the rush and the sooner the better.
"Hopefully we'll be outta here the week before Christmas," he said. "It'll be all said and done."
|Festival of Lights|
Augusta officially kicks off the Christmas season tonight with the Festival of Lights Ceremony at Riverwalk Augusta.
The event begins at 5 p.m. with a children's Christmas story hour in the Cotton Exchange.
At 5:30 p.m., the U.S. Army Signal Corps Band will perform, and the giant Christmas Tree at riverwalk and Eighth Street will be lit at 6:15 p.m.
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