WEST JEFFERSON — The people have spoken, and after more than 700 votes, Gardner Tree Farms won first place in the 2019 People’s Choice Christmas tree competition during the 33rd annual Christmas in July Festival on Saturday, July 6.

“It feels good,” Ken Gardner, owner of Gardner Tree Farms, said. “You’re always glad to feel recognized.”

The competition, organized by the Ashe County Cooperative Extension, featured five trees for the public to choose between. Gardner’s Fraser fir was placed fifth in the line.

A total of 743 votes were submitted between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., with Gardner’s lucky No. 5 securing 397 of those votes.

Aside from bragging rights, Gardner Tree Farms also won $1,000 for placing first in the competition. A second place prize of $250 was awarded to Peak Farms, and Mistletoe Meadows placed third, winning $100.

Funds for first place prize were split between the Christmas in July Festival and the Ashe County Christmas Tree Association. For the second and third place prizes, funds were provided by the Ashe County Cooperative Extension.

Christmas trees are a family business for Gardner, who said that he’s been in the business for about 40 years.

“My dad was one that started trying to get some (farmers) to grow a few trees, and it took off,” Gardner said.

Now, Ashe County is the largest supplier of Christmas trees in the country, according to Ashe County Cooperative Extension Director Travis Birdsell.

The award-winning tree was chosen from Gardner’s farm in Jefferson, though he said he also has other farms throughout Ashe County.

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