A very Boonie Christmas: Getting a tree from Clarenville seller a local tradition

Ralph "Boonie" Lethbridge, 71, has been selling Christmas trees for nearly 40 years, and says some kids mistake him for the man in red.
If you get a real Christmas tree and live in Clarenville, you've likely met Ralph "Boonie" Lethbridge. (Julia Cook/CBC)

If you live in the Clarenville area and you celebrate Christmas, chances are you've picked up a tree from Ralph "Boonie" Lethbridge.

The tree-seller has been cutting down Christmas trees for nearly 40 years, and with his long beard, overalls and generally jolly outlook, Lethbridge has been mistaken for someone else pretty frequently this time of year.

I'm 71 now so I don't mind another 20 years.- Ralph "Boonie" Lethbridge

"They think I'm Santa Claus," he told CBC's Central Morning Show.

"There's a few want a picture [taken] with us,  too, with the tree for Christmas."

Lethbridge has been selling the trees grown in his lot for decades.

In Clarenville, there's really only one place to get a true Newfoundland Christmas tree. "Boonie" Lethbridge has been selling trees for close to 40 years and shows no signs of stopping. 5:20

"It just come to [my] mind, I said nobody in Clarenville never ever cut a few trees to sell. I just thought, I'm going to try it," said Lethbridge.

"Then I had a couple more people, competition, they couldn't make it and I wouldn't give up."

Ralph "Boonie" Lethbridge and his bother Gerald toss a Newfoundland tree in the back of a truck. (Julia Cook/CBC)

Once charging $3 or $4 for a tree, Lethbridge has now increased his price to $25 for a tree. 

The licence for him to cut down the 170 to 200 trees per year costs $250, and Lethbridge said the increasingly popular artificial trees make business a little harder, but not unmanageable.

"This is the first year we've put 'em up to $25 now … you have to by your own expense and everything. And then we always give away half a dozen, [if] somebody [hasn't] got the money," he said.

"We do all right. It's enough for a little bit of stuff at Christmas for your children and grandchildren."

His beard may be iconic, but Lethbridge said he plans to cut off his beard and all his hair for a fundraiser later in winter.

But even without the Santa-like beard, Lethbridge said he doesn't plan to stop cutting down Christmas trees any time soon.

"Oh, till I'm 80 or 90. Guaranteed," he said.

"I'm 71 now so I don't mind another 20 years."

Ralph "Boonie" Lethbridge and his wife Virginia say there's no end in sight for selling Christmas trees. (Julia Cook/CBC)

With files from Julia Cook

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