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This year marks the 75th anniversary of the annual School Forest Festival, wherein community members are invited to cut their own holiday trees. Shown here, students hauled a felled tree in 1962. (YS News archives)

School Forest celebrates 75 years

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The annual School Forest Festival will be held Saturday, Dec. 2, 9 a.m.–2 p.m., at the School Forest on Bryan Park Road.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the beloved event, wherein community members are invited to cut their own Christmas trees, aided by YSHS School Forest Club members.

According to past News reporting, the first School Forest Festival was held Dec. 18, 1948. It was a joint effort of then-Glen Helen Director Ken Hunt and Antioch College graduate student Alan Woog, along with school administrators and students. The initial few crops of trees were cut from the Glen’s Pine Forest, established in the Glen in the 1920s, until the seedlings planted by the first School Forest students specifically to be cut as Christmas trees matured.

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In the School Forest Festival’s inaugural year, trees were priced at $1.25, and more than 400 people came out for the event. One-hundred-thirty-five trees were sold, raising $202.50 for Bryan High School.

Since the beginning, intrepid high school students have worked year-round to tend the trees, weed-whacking, pruning and getting rid of pests.

YS High School social studies teacher John Day, who has served as School Forest advisor for 30 years, said the club has about 30 members this year — making it one of the largest school clubs.

“And every weekend we go out and do manual labor,” he said with a laugh. “But I really think the students like connecting with nature together.”

The night before the festival, club members camp in the School Forest — typically in frigid temperatures — and wake up bright and early the next morning to help with tree-cutting and ferrying community members and their freshly cut trees on a tractor-drawn wagon.

Over the years, the School Forest’s crop has fluctuated; locals may remember that, in 2013, the School Forest was so overtaken by deer that it yielded only three trees, which were given away in a raffle.

This year’s crop won’t be as robust as 1948’s; Day said that, whereas the School Forest typically yields 100–150 trees, there will only be around 35 trees available this weekend. The smaller crop, he said, is again due to damage from an influx of deer, as well as a potential fungus affecting the Scotch pines.

Nevertheless, the familiar hot chocolate and cookies — a staple since the event’s first iteration — and tractor rides through the field will be offered to all who attend.

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One Response to “School Forest celebrates 75 years”

  1. Rebecca TAylor says:

    My Dad, Dick Taylor, was in the YS High class of ’48 and helped cut and sell some of those first trees. He also planted some of the seedling trees which became an indelible memory of our family Christmas when our family cut our tree at the Festival every year throughout the 60’s and 70’s. The tramp through the cold woods to find the perfect tree, the ride out on the hay wagon (originally house-drawn but later tractor-pulled), and gathering around the bonfire for hot chocolate are among my most treasured memories of the holiday season.

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