First Lady Tonette Walker

Governor, wife cut local tree for Capitol

By Oconto County Reporter
Thursday, November 29, 2012

Gov. Scott Walker visited Oconto last week to pick up a tree for his conference room at the State Capitol.

Walker and his wife Tonette rode aboard a horse-drawn wagon deep into a field at Whispering Pines Tree Farm and were escorted to a 10-foot Fraser fir by Dave Vander Velden, who owns the farm with his wife, Mary.

Vander Velden said they could choose another tree, but Walker thought it was "perfect."

"Why mess around, when you find the perfect one?" Walker replied.

Walker dropped to his knees to start the cutting, then was joined by Mrs. Walker for two-handed cutting. After they sawed through a tough knot, the tree finally tipped over, exposing a fat, triangular shaped base.

"Ooh, that was a big trunk, wasn’t it?" Vander Velden said.

Vander Velden and Walker dragged it back out to a trailer behind the wagon.

Walker said later the view from the wagon afford a scenic view of the farm and surrounding landscape. The Christmas tree industry in the state “is part of what makes Wisconsin special,” he said.

Whispering Pines won the right to provide the tree after having one of their trees selected as grand champion tree during Wisconsin Christmas Tree Producers Association meeting in August.

The Vander Veldens have been growing trees on their farm in Oconto County for 25 years. They currently grow several species of trees on approximately 150 acres of land.

Students across the state have been invited to make ornaments for the tree, following the state’s “In Wisconsin” theme by showcasing products and services in the state.

The Walkers also toured Whispering Pines’ retail store, where a variety of ornaments and other goods are sold. While Mrs. Walker selected several ornaments to purchase, Vander Velden explained the business to the governor.

Walker arrived in Oconto from two days of unsuccessful deer hunting in Vilas County.

“Didn’t see a thing,” he said.

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