McHenry County residents enjoy search for perfect Christmas tree

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Fans of real Christmas trees will tell you it isn't Christmas until it smells like Christmas.

They'll trudge through snowy fields at farms throughout McHenry County to find just the right tree to fill their homes with that fresh evergreen scent.

"For me personally, it's more Christmas to have a real tree," said Bradley Shaw, farm manager for Tamarack Farms Christmas Trees in Richmond. "The people who like them cut like the smell of the tree, the feeling of the tree."

Like others throughout the area, Tamarack Farms is open weekends now through Christmas, offering visitors the chance to cut their own trees. Any size and type of tree costs $55 at the farm, where employees will help haul, shake, bail and tie down the trees if necessary.

Because some of the trees have been growing more than a decade, Tamarack has trees up to 12-feet tall for those with cathedral ceilings, Shaw said. And of course, smaller trees are available, as well.

"They can actually see what the tree is going to look like when they put it in their living rooms," Shaw said.

Perks, such as the free hot chocolate and cookies at Tamarack, often come along with the farm visits.

At Oney's Tree Farm in Woodstock, open daily and believed to be the oldest and largest in the area, Mrs. Claus greets visitors on the weekends, and free horse-drawn wagons take customers to and from their trees, even hauling the trees back from the field.

"We think it's stepping back in time," Owner Dawn Peterson said.

She's watched at least four generations of families make Oney's a Christmas tradition since the 1960s. Pony rides, a gift shop, hot lunches and the farm's "famous cinnamon rolls" also are available.

"A 12-year-old told me one time that Christmas didn't start until she got her cinnamon roll," Peterson said.

At Oney's, visitors can harvest their own, pick out a pre-cut tree or buy a tree with roots for later planning, with prices varying depending on the size and type of tree. Prices start at $30 for a tree less than 5 feet, while pre-cut trees start at $68.

"Even in recession, depression, good times and bad times, it always seems to be pretty consistent," Peterson said of her customer base. "I find that's actually a testament to what Christmas is about. It's about faith, hope and love, all positive things. So even in a recession, people still want to hold to that ideal. It's very important to them. That's a testament of goodness that our numbers remain consistent, because that means families are celebrating."

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