Celebrate: More than 50 years on, Johnstown business still bending branches into beautiful wreaths, kissing balls

Large Christmas wreaths for barns and businesses are on display at Goderie’s Tree Farm in Johnstown in November.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Large Christmas wreaths for barns and businesses are on display at Goderie’s Tree Farm in Johnstown in November.

As the holiday season approaches each year, and the hopes for a white Christmas are talked about among children and adults alike, it is the color green that dominates porches, doors, awnings and even the inside of homes each December.

The first Saturday and Sunday in December are the most popular days to purchase a Christmas tree, but before the annual symbol of the holiday is placed in most living rooms, there are other signs of green to celebrate the season.

The first Sunday of Advent, the start of the four-week celebration before Christmas, is an annual marker of the wreath-hanging season, but even prior to that greens were abundant throughout the Capital Region.

Before Thanksgiving, Goderie’s Tree Farm was in full swing — bending, tying and bowing balsam and mixed evergreen wreaths as well as kissing balls.

Located on County Road 106 in Johnstown, the tree farm recently celebrated its 50-year anniversary and its humble beginnings.

“We had the land and friends of ours had a tree farm, and we just got into it,” Sheila Goderie said during an interview at the family-owned business.

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“The idea was to make money to put the boys [Mike and Peter] through college because they were 9 and 10 then,” her daughter-in-law, Susan Goderie, said. Susan is married to Michael Goderie and has been a part of the business for years.

The first planting on the farm began in 1970, with the family’s first harvest in 1978.

“It was strictly wholesale. We didn’t do any retail,” Michael Goderie said. “My brother and I were still in high school.”

In 1984 the family opened for retail sales from their home before moving operations to the retail building on County Road 106.

Now the business has a staff that cuts, creates and decorates standard wreaths; large, outdoor wreaths that hang on barns and businesses; and two styles of kissing balls.

“Everyone has their job,” Susan Goderie said. “We have girls making kissing balls, girls that make large wreaths, girls that make the big wreaths and all the smaller wreaths. My daughter and I decorate. Some girls do the decorating.”

Susan Goderie prides herself on her decorating touch.

“I like adding the bow, adding the pine cones, adding the berries, antlers, little knicky-knack things and birds,” she said.

Her favorite? The traditional wreath with a red bow, frosted cones and berries.

With a pile of Christmas-tree branches cut, the staff at Goderie Tree Farm can produce hundreds of wreaths in a weekend.

“Cutting the boughs and making it, the actual wreath takes a few minutes for some girls,” Susan Goderie said. “It depends on how much you have to cut. The larger wreaths, you need more muscle. The bigger the ring [round, metal wire wreath for design], the bigger the branches.”

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Decorating a wreath can be intricate and time-consuming — or, in a pinch, completed in mere seconds.

“To make a bow if you’re a novice, it could take a long time. After you’ve made a few thousand of them, I’m quick,” Susan Goderie said. “We had a wholesale order, [Michael] put all the wreaths in the back of the truck and I’m in the front of the truck with a 100-yard roll of red ribbon making bows, throwing them in the back seat as we’re driving to go deliver them. He timed me to make a bow, less than a minute. I can’t believe I did it that fast.”

Kissing balls or holly boughs have been an on-again, off-again trend throughout the years. They have symbolized love and devotion.

When decorated with mistletoe during the Victorian era it was customary for unmarried women to line up for a chance to stand beneath a kissing ball in the hopes of receiving a kiss from potential suitors. To help reduce a logjam of hopeful couples, once a lady received a kiss she would remove a berry from the mistletoe. When all the berries were gone, no more kisses.

Goderie’s offers both the traditional kissing ball — round, trimmed and shapely — along with Adirondack balls.

“The Adirondack kissing balls are a little bit wilder, a little bit more like the wilderness, so we call them ADK balls,” Susan Goderie said.

Goderie Farm boasts more than 180,000 trees in its inventory. There’s a cycle of planting new crops, harvesting mature trees for wholesale and retail sales, and trimming trees for boughs for the family’s wreath business. And it doesn’t end with the holiday.

According to Michael Goderie, the business sells more than 1,000 trees each year for landscapes.

Goderie’s Tree Farm is located at 338 County Road 106 in Johnstown. They are open seven days a week through Christmas Eve and can be reached at (518) 883-8196 or email [email protected]

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Categories: Celebrate 2021, Life and Arts

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