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Christmas treedition
Father-son team opens tree farm for holidays

LAWRENCEVILLE - As a little boy, Tom McConnell always wanted to visit a Christmas tree farm to cut down a live tree for his family to enjoy during the holiday season.

Having never gotten the opportunity as a child, McConnell started the Christmas tradition with his son, Thomas, now 16.

"I took him out to a Christmas tree farm, and we had a wonderful time cutting our own Christmas tree," Tom McConnell said.

What began as a McConnell family Christmas tradition has grown into a father-son project to make that same tradition possible for other families.

After years of visiting farms and cutting down Christmas trees, the McConnells started their own tree farm - at the request of a then-13-year-old Thomas.

"I had a dream of a field of beautiful Christmas trees with kids running around playing in them, and I wanted to see that dream come true," Thomas McConnell said.

Each year, the father-son team works to get their Christmas trees ready for the holiday season by plowing, planting, fertilizing, pruning and managing the irrigation system.

The portion of their property the McConnells use for their tree farm is also a part of a land conservation program designed to protect and preserve greenspace while promoting tree growth.

"With the spirit of that, we felt like the Christmas tree farm would be in keeping," Tom McConnell said.

About 400 Leyland cypresses fill a portion of the McConnells' property. Families are invited to walk through lines of trees to find the perfect shape, size and height for their homes. The trees range from 7 feet to more than 12 feet tall. One particularly tall tree towered over Tom McConnell as he stretched his arm high above his head to show off the height.

"They just turn out to be beautiful trees," he said.

The McConnells will provide a handsaw and are more than happy to do the cutting for those who prefer to stand back and watch, but they hope families will enjoy cutting their trees themselves.

"It's a great thing families can do together," Tom McConnell said.

"Going out and cutting a live Christmas tree was some of the best fun I ever had," Thomas McConnell added. "It made Christmas special for me."

The McConnells' Christmas tree farm will be open from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturdays and 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 21.

The McConnells also plan to donate $5 for every tree sold when a purchaser names a sports league or Scout troop or pack number as the recipient.

Thomas McConnell has been involved in youth sports much of his life and is now a wrestler at North Gwinnett High School. The land used for the family's Christmas tree farm previously served as a baseball and football practice field for Thomas and his friends.

"We're trying to promote youth sports as well as good causes in our area," Tom McConnell said. "We just want to carry on a family Christmas tradition while giving back to the youth."

Thomas McConnell plans to continue that tradition for a long time.

"Someday I would like to enjoy the Christmas tradition of cutting a live Christmas tree with my son or daughter, " he said, "just like I did with my mom and dad."

SideBar: If You Go

· What: McConnell Tree Farm

· When: 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturdays and 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 21

· Where: 3795 Smithtown Road, Suwanee

· Cost: $35 to $85 for a tree

· For more information: Call 770-945-7981