Williams Tree Farm: a regional center for holiday activity in Rockton

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Santa Claus receives a confidential request from a constituent over breakfast at Williams Tree Farm.

The final weekend of Williams Tree Farm's Christmas season has arrived, offering what Williams Tree Farm is famous for: cut-your-own and precut Christmas trees, visits with Santa, horse-drawn wagon rides, wreaths and garlands, candy, and gifts. 

Located at 4661 Yale Bridge Rd. in Rockton, on Saturday afternoon they're hosting about 40 volunteers to pack meals with the Rockford-based charity Kids Around the World - their goal is 20,000 meals. They will also be wrapping Christmas presents for members of the Lac Du Flambeau reservation in Northern Wisconsin. Then they end their season with a children's Live Nativity and Christmas Celebration on Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021 at 4:30 p.m. After that, the staff says, "We will use this time to ready our hearts as we prepare for the true meaning for the season." 

For the first few years after the 900-acre farm was purchased by the Williams family in the 1940s, they raised dairy cattle and hogs. But they provided a lot of timber for The Wagon Wheel resort in Rockton, so to replace the trees that were cut, they planted pine seedlings. By the time these had grown to Christmas-tree-size, a bad winter storm kept locals from getting trees from their usual sources, and in 1946 the Williams agreed to cut and sell some of their trees. For decades, the business sent pre-cut trees as far as the Chicago suburbs. But as local people came out to the Williams Tree Farm to get their Christmas trees, the family began pioneering the choose-and-cut model. Since the 1980s, Williams Tree Farm has increasingly gone beyond providing trees and focused on providing experiences.



Now Williams Tree Farm begins their Christmas activities two weeks before Thanksgiving. The rest of the year, they are a venue for weddings and other special events, such as pop-up adventure challenges. They offer photo opportunities for both professional and amateur photographers. With advance registration, they can accommodate up to 25 photographers at a time. 

Group and educational tours include a horse-drawn wagon ride through the trees and tree shaking and baling and wreath making demonstrations. The children's farm features reindeer, horses, goats, and other animals, including a camel. They also have ten golden retrievers and one Bernese Mountain dog.

The farm is a sustainable business. At least four seedlings are planted in place of every tree that is cut. And the family and staff know trees. When you take your tree home, they advise that the tree drinks the most water the first day. "Hot water seems to work the best" for daily watering.

Tree varieties that are available are Fraser Fir, Canaan Fir, Balsam Fir, Colorado Blue Spruce, Norway Spruce, Scotch Pine, and White Pine. Pre-cut pines start at $7 per foot, spruces and firs start at $10 per foot. Cut-your-own pricing begins at $20 for pines under 4 feet, up to $96 for spruce & fir 9 feet and taller

Throughout the Christmas season, food trucks have come to the farm every weekend, such as Dandy Doughnuts, Savor BBQ, Olive Branch, and Disco Chicken. Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus have come too: their final visits before heading back North are 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. this weekend. The Candy Corner has delicious homemade fudge, frosted nuts, and apple pie.

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