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An energetic band of Yellow Springs High School Foresters welcome one and all to their annual Christmas tree sale this weekend near the pine forest off Bryan Park Road. The group will be out Friday night through Sunday morning ready to cut and haul the trees they planted and raised from seed. Pictured from left, Elliot Cromer, Tasha Fox, Nicky Sontag, Anne Weigand, Lois Miller, Savita Bathija, Jacob Trumbull, Lucy Callahan and Philip Kellogg prepped their trees this week in advance of the crowds they hope to draw to the group’s annual fundraiser. (Photo by Kelsey Cundiff)

Santa and bonfire at tree festival

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Yet again, the annual Yellow Springs High School School Forest Festival is upon us, and School Foresters will be camping out in the cold for a weekend and selling their trees. Along with getting a tree, people who come out to the forest can meet Santa, enjoy hayrides, cookies and hot chocolate, and warm themselves by the fire.

Beginning in 1947, School Forest and the School Forest Festival is one of the longest standing traditions of YSHS. The pine forest in Glen Helen was planted in the 1920s and once the trees grew to size, people began to go into the Glen to cut down the trees and take them home for Christmas. The director of the Glen at the time had the idea to start a high school forestry club to grow trees to sell to the public so the pine forest trees would not be cut down and so in 1947 School Forest was born, according to YSHS teacher and School Forest advisor John Day. School Forest members take care of the pine trees all year and then sell them at the festival.

Preparing and maintaining the trees is no easy task, though. The students weed-whack the area around the trees the “old fashioned way,” mow the grass in the field, prune the trees, plant new trees, as well as take part in the delightful task of “caterpillar smushing” in which students remove caterpillars that come to feed on the pine trees each spring. School Forest is something that is very unique to Yellow Springs as well.

“I’ve never heard of another School Forest type thing anywhere. There are places that have environmental clubs that do things but nothing quite like it,” said Day.

Giving up free time on the weekends to do manual labor and camping out in the cold is not something most high school students would find appealing, but the School Foresters wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s just an experience that most people don’t normally get. It’s definitely worth the work,” Tasha Fox said. The reasoning as to why the students participated varied from the spring trip and camp outs, to their love of nature and being able to spend time with their friends. All the students agreed, though, that the camp outs and other activities were huge bonding experiences for the group that caused them all to be very close.

“It’s just so raw an environment that your emotions come out much easier. It’s the middle of the winter night and people get to know you. There’s no way that you couldn’t become bonded with an experience like that,” said Elliot Cromer.

The School Forest Festival offers a selection of natural and organic trees, mainly Scotch pine. No pesticides are used on the trees, which does happen at many other tree farms, and the profits benefit School Forest and the students, as opposed to a business. The other activities the festival provides are also a reason to get your tree from School Forest.

“While you can go and get a tree anywhere, if you come out to the School Forest Festival, you can get a hayride, meet Santa, hike around in the Glen and have all these other great activities,” Day said.

Some community members have been coming back year after year to get their trees from School Forest and this year is a great year to start if you haven’t bought from School Forest before. Due to the impact that weather and animals have on the growth of the trees, this year there is a bumper crop of big trees and in the next few years there won’t be as large of a selection, so now is a great time to get a School Forest tree.

Just follow the Festival signs from Yellow Springs to the School Forest field, located at the Bryan Park Road entrance to Glen Helen, just down the road from the John Bryan State Park Campground. The Festival will run Saturday, Dec. 4, from 9 a.m.–3 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 5, from 9 a.m.–2 p.m. The trees are $5 per foot on Saturday and $3 per foot on Sunday.

*Kelsey Cundiff is a YSHS senior and intern for the Yellow Springs News.


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