BRIDGE -- Enter Michael Ryan's barn and you'll see Santa asleep in the
corner, a chimney St. Nick used to come down before he fell into a snooze and a record of what had been the world's largest
What you won't find is a shred of bah humbug to ruin the quintessential Christmas
mood of Ryan's tree farm on Clemsonville Road.
On Saturday, Ryan with the help of his sons and grandchildren handed out saws for
Christmas tree-hunting families. They also hosted their largest group of visitors each season.
Ryan said the tree business is competitive these days -- a contrast to the boom
times of the past.
"People would line up on the roads to get in a tree farm in the '70s and early
'80s," he said.
Ryan said more people are choosing natural trees. He got steady business Saturday
and a visit from one of his most loyal customers.
Gaithersburg resident Jim Lucey brought his usual group of more than 35 people
-- a tradition that's been ongoing for about 30 years.
"The prices are pretty good," he said. "You can't beat $20 for a tree."
Lucey found out about Ryan's tree farm from a flier he picked up at a grocery store
33 years ago, and he's been coming ever since.
"We make it a big yearly event," he said.
Ryan bought the 230-acre farm in 1965 and has been selling trees since 1967. He
lives in the late 1700s house built by the original landowner, John Clemson.
No longer the Guinness record holder for the world's largest wreath, Ryan said
the category now allows floral arrangements. He said the reclassification knocked his 116-foot-diameter wreath of evergreen
boughs out of the running in the late 1980s.
He does claim to have the largest real Christmas wreath with a limestone tree as
"You can see how no one
can reproduce that," he said.