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Last-minute Christmas tree rush keeps lots busy

With the smell of fresh cut, Wisconsin-grown pine hanging in the air, Tony Latzig sold his 500th Christmas tree Sunday morning at his family's Windy Hill Tree Farms stand in Mequon.

\"It's been a part of my family, a part of tradition,\" Latzig said.  \"This is generally a 500-tree lot and that's a good year for us.\"

Hitting that benchmark came at the right time: just one day before Latzig will pack up and head back to the farm between Rhinelander and Merrill.

Latzig says the two Saturdays before Christmas tend to be his busiest. But procrastinators help him round out the season.

\"I'll probably sell about 20 trees today for people who are last-minute buyers,\" Latzig said.  \"They'll try to haggle with you and that's all good fun. You can expect that.\"

There was no haggling outside the Stein's Garden and Gifts in Greenfield, where Karen Soby's family helped her load up a last-minute tree. For Soby, the price was right and no crowds took away the stress.

\"There certainly wasn't, it was very easy,\" Soby said.  \"And they still had quite a selection.\"

But not quite the selection the Johnson family had when they bought their tree more than three weeks ago.

\"I think it's waiting too long because you can't enjoy it, especially being a real tree, you want to be able to enjoy it,\" Andrea Johnson said in her Milwaukee home Sunday.

The family decorates their real tree with personalized ornaments the night they get it home. But spending $100 this year could mean buying a fake one next - a tradition Johnson would hate to break.

\"We've been talking about it because the prices have gone up on the trees,\" Johnson said.  \"But yes, that's my husband's tradition, he really loves the real tree.\"

Latzig plans to start packing up his stand at Port Washington Road & Donges Bay Road Monday, but will sell trees to anyone who shows up before early evening.

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