Post #497: Lions Club Fund Raisers

This is the second of a series of articles on things unrelated to the Town of Vienna

This article is about another holiday tradition in my household.

Long-time residents of Vienna expect to see the Vienna Lions Club selling Christmas trees this time of year.  They set up in the parking lot of the former Safeway, next to where the Southern States used to be.  (Translation:  Walgreens).  I’m a late-in-the-season tree buyer, so sometimes I can get a tree there, and sometimes — as is the case this year — they’re sold out before I even think about buying a tree.

But my favorite Lions holiday tradition comes via the Fairfax Lions Club.  Around this time of the year, every year, they have an old-fashioned citrus sale.  By that I mean, they bring up a truckload of citrus from Florida and sell cartons of fruit right off the truck.  This one takes place where the Hechinger’s used to be, at Fairfax Circle.  (Translation:  Home Depot).  Theirs just ended, but they’ll have another on in the spring.  If you have an interest, you can sign up for an email reminder on their website, or you can attend a similar sale by the Falls Church/Annandale Lions on Saturday, December 21.

Putting aside that the purchase of citrus at these sales helps a worthy charity, I like the Fairfax Lions Club citrus sale for five reasons.

One, it’s a good deal on good fruit.  I paid more-or-less the same price for the two grapefruit pictured above.  The big one on the left is from the Lions, and weighs in at 17 ounces.  The smaller one on the right is from Giant Food, at just over 12 ounces.   So it’s analogous to buying your produce at the farmers’ market.  You get fresher, better produce, at a reasonable price, if you cut out the standard food distribution channels.

Two, it’s genuinely seasonal.  The timing of the sale reflects the timing of the peak citrus harvest.  In an era where there is no longer any seasonality to what’s available in the grocery store, that’s pleasantly quaint and reality-based.  You have a limited opportunity to buy fresh American citrus because … well, in fact, that’s when it ripens.  And that’s a throwback in an era when you’d be hard-pressed to name any item in the grocery store produce section that you cannot buy, in some form, 24/7/365.

Three, it doesn’t change, which I guess is the essence of a tradition.  Reliably, it’s two or three guys, selling boxes of fruit, off a truck.  No gimmicks, no apps, no ads, no glitz, no upsell.  Cash and carry.

Four, it’s part of a long-standing, area-wide tradition of wintertime citrus sales by charitable organizations.  In our area, charity citrus sales are so common this time of year that if you miss one, you’ve probably got another opportunity coming up.  So, e.g., the Falls Church/Annandale Lions are holding one on Saturday, December 21.  So you’ve missed the Fairfax Lions sale, but you could still pick up a box at the Falls Church/Annandale Lions sale.

Finally, this may soon be a thing of the past.  Ultimately, charity citrus sales are driven by the productivity of the Florida citrus industry.  But Florida citrus groves are being destroyed by “citrus greening”, a plant disease that only showed up in the US in 2005.

In fact, I was surprised to see the Lions selling this year at a reasonable price.  I buy red grapefruit from the Lions.  Here’s the recent trend in Florida red grapefruit harvest, using data as published by the USDA.  To me, that chart says, better get it while you can.  So for now, I’m thankful that I can continue this tradition for one more year.