(HELENA) Even before Thanksgiving, Greg Macker already has his mind on the Christmas season.

For more than 30 years, Macker has operated a Christmas tree lot just off North Montana Avenue in Helena. On Wednesday morning, he and his crew got to work at 8 a.m., unloading two semi-trucks full of trees.

Macker said this year, when temperatures were in the 40s and 50s, was a big contrast to other years.

“It’s rained, it’s been below zero, snow,” he said. “This was a pleasant year to unload the trees.”

Story continues below

Seven workers took an hour to empty the first truck and just over 90 minutes for the second. By the end of the morning, they had unloaded more than a thousand trees. Macker said they included about nine varieties – pines, spruce and firs – and ranged in height from four feet to 16 feet.

“If you can’t find it here, then you don’t need that tree,” he said.

Macker said the trees were all cut last week from the Echo Lake area, near Bigfork.

“That’s important: that you have a Montana tree,” he added.

Now that the trees are on the lot, Macker and his crew will work through Thanksgiving, building tree stands, cutting the twine that held the branches in place, and getting the trees ready for display. They plan to have the lot open for business by Friday.

“This weekend is kind of a family tradition for a lot of people,” said Macker. “They do their Thanksgiving dinner and they immediately come out and get the tree.”

Though Christmas is still more than a month away, Macker says the trees should last if people take proper care of them.

“My customers know that have been coming to me for 30 years, as long as that tree has got a fresh cut and it’s watered, they’ll stay fresh throughout the season,” he said.

Macker says he has worked with the same crew for a decade, and that he has a number of repeat customers. In some cases, people who came to his lot as children have returned with their own kids.

“It’s so much fun,” Macker said. “I love the people, the friendships I’ve made over the years, especially the children. They’re so excited when they come on the tree lot and see all these gorgeous trees. That’s the excitement.”

Macker usually operates his lot from the Friday after Thanksgiving to about Dec. 20.