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Sell's Christmas Tree and Reindeer Farm closing; auction today

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    Alan Sell wears a traditional Sami men’s Four Winds hat while he works with a 6-month-old reindeer in December 2005.

    CHRONICLE FILE

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WAKEMAN — After nearly four decades as a yuletide tradition for area families, Sell’s Christmas Tree and Reindeer Farm is coming to an end.

An all-day auction starts 9:30 a.m. today and is expected to continue to 5 p.m. to sell off generations of farm and home equipment, said owner Walter “Alan” Sell. Two rings will be going throughout the day and will include commercial tree-

processing equipment like shakers and balers, all merchandise from the gift shop and leftover Thanksgiving, Halloween and spring items the farm used over the years.

Also on the block: household items from the Sell family and “collections of 36 years from us as well as our parents and uncles and aunts, all their stuff we stored here as family members passed,” he said.

“We still don’t know where we’re going, but it’s time to open a new door,” Sell said. “I wasn’t looking (to sell), but somebody knocked on my door and gave me an offer I can’t refuse.”

Sell planted the first Christmas trees on the 50-acre farm in 1980 and started selling the trees in 1985. In 1990, the Sell family moved onto to the property. The gift shop was added in 1996, the same year they brought the first reindeer to the farm.

Over the years the farm winnowed its tree production and in 2008 stopped planting trees and ended its “cut-your-own” business. They sold 28 acres, cut back to only operating at Christmas, and began importing 1,200 to 1,500 trees a season from northern Michigan.

“As we got older and more broken down, we slowly were transitioning out,” Sell said.

The reindeer were a marketing idea to draw more attention to the tree farm because of an overabundance of trees in the 1990s, Sell said. It was nearly an entirely different offering.

“We thought about ostriches pulling a sleigh, but then we settled on reindeer,” he said.

Sell and his first wife, Patricia, raised five kids on the farm and were married for 36 years when Patricia died in 2015. Sell worked the farm while also working as a recycling technical specialist for Poly One Corp., traveling the world for business and securing a few patents for recycling technology. He retired in 2003.

Sell, 65, recently remarried and is raising his youngest child, who is 11. The family hopes to stay in the Western Reserve school district — but wherever they go, the new home must accommodate their five reindeer. Over the years, 30 reindeer have been born on the farm.

“I’ve had as many as 17, but I find a good number is around eight,” he said.

The reindeer will now be the focus of the business. Sell still breeds, sells and trains reindeer and travels the state for public appearances and educational programs that focus on the Sami people, the original reindeer herders of Sweden, Norway and Russia.

In the past week, a storm blew through the property as the family tried to prepare for the auction. The power finally came back Thursday, after being out since Sunday night. They lost 13 trees, including one that fell on the barn, one on the house and three on the reindeer fence. Sell estimated they were 80-foot-tall pine trees.

The farm’s sleigh — reindeer-powered, of course — was moved about 100 feet and crashed into a mirror in an outbuilding.

“But we came through OK and the reindeer are OK,” he said. “I’ve had some really good times over the years. I had a lot of great fun doing that for everybody.”

Sell’s Christmas Tree and Reindeer Farm is at 5762 Auster Road, Wakeman. More information and photos of items can be seen at http://bit.ly/2ji1s47.

Contact Rini Jeffers at 329-7155 or rinijeffers@gmail.com.

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