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Tree time: Cutting one down at Cupkie’s

The Skauge and Klovstad families have made it a tradition to meet up at Cupkie’s every winter to find their Christmas trees. They are, left to right: Cindy Skauge, Steve Skauge, Nadine Hillesheim, Tara Skauge, and Jordan, Joni and Steve Sellent. Elizabeth Huwe/FOCUS1 / 4
Steve, Cindy, and Tara Skauge, from Fergus Falls, picked out a balsam fir from Cupkie’s Christmas Village. They wanted a tall, slender tree this year. Elizabeth Huwe/FOCUS2 / 4
Elisse Hasling, age 5, and her mother, Amy, enjoyed a reindeer sleigh ride while visiting Cupkie’s from Erhard, Minn. Elizabeth Huwe/FOCUS 3 / 4
Casper, a young white dromedary camel from Hemker Zoo, got a smooch from Tiffany Huwe in the petting zoo at Cupkie’s Christmas Village on Saturday. Elizabeth Huwe/FOCUS4 / 4

It’s a tradition for the Skauges and Klovstads: the weekend after Thanksgiving, the two families meet up in Perham to find their Christmas trees, do some holiday shopping and have a little fun.

“We started tree shopping in Perham when our oldest (son) was 3 or 4 years old,” said Cindy Skauge. He’s now in his thirties.

Skauge and Nadine Hillesheim, who have been friends since meeting at college in Moorhead, have picked out trees together for almost 15 years.

The two families now live in Fergus Falls and Moorhead, respectively, but still make the annual trip to Cupkie’s Christmas Village as a fun way to kick off their Christmases.

This year, the Skauges were looking for a tall, narrow tree on Saturday. They took home a balsam fir. Meanwhile, a “chubby” scotch pine was the Klovstads’ favorite.

Their children add their own fun to the day while competing to find the perfect tree.

“We try to push each other into the trees or throw snowballs at each other,” said Joni Klovstad and Tara Skauge.

On the years when there’s not enough snow to make snowballs, they’ll hurl the occasional pine cone back and forth instead.

For these two families and other tree hunters at Cupkie’s, fun extras include reindeer sleigh rides, a petting zoo and sledding hill. There are also several fire rings for warming up.

“I’ve never seen the line so long,” said Peggy Cupkie while in the gift shop and concessions area this past Saturday. She and her husband, Lynn, bought the tree farm in 1993 and opened it in 1999. They run it with help from their son, Todd.

“It keeps getting bigger and better every year,” Peggy Cupkie said.

In fact, Nov. 30 was their busiest day ever, with 189 trees sold.

Part of that growth includes the Cupkie’s involvement in Trees for Troops, a program described by Cupkie as a partnership between the National Christmas Tree Association and FedEx.

Trees for Troops, which sends farm-grown Christmas trees to military bases and families, began in 2005. Since then, according to the program’s website, Trees for Troops has sent more than 122,000 trees to service men and women and their families.

This year, more than 17,000 trees are expected to be donated and delivered to more than 60 bases.

Trees donated by the Cupkies will be shipped to St. Cloud, and from there FedEx will take over the deliveries.

This year, trees from Minnesota will be going to the Marine Corps Air Station in Cherry Point, N.C., as well as Scott Air Force Base in Belleville, Ill., wrote Rick Dungey, the program’s media contact, in an email to the Focus.

Cupkie said they have donated trees every year, and they plan to keep doing so as long as the program continues.

“It’s just a good thing to do,” she said. “It’s about pride and loyalty. We’re proud of what we’ve done.”