The Times West Virginian

December 25, 2013

Be prepared to spend $19,000 for ‘12 Days of Christmas’

By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — The familiar Christmas carol “The 12 Days of Christmas” is filled with all sorts of splendid gifts fit for one’s “true love.”

But from the “partridge in a pear tree” to the “12 drummers drumming,” a person would have to spend quite a bit of money — nearly $19,000 — to actually buy each of the items listed in that popular song for a loved one.

While most of the gifts could be tracked down in the local area, others were only available via the Internet or ended up calling for a little bit of cleverness and imagination. Of course, many of these presents can’t be wrapped in ribbons and bows.

The tune begins with “On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me ... a partridge in a pear tree.” A consumer can find a flight-conditioned adult chukar partridge for $6 from Lake Cumberland Game Bird Farm and Hatchery in Monticello, Ky., with an additional fee for delivery out of the business’ area.

However, these partridges — which the farm’s website says “are great flyers” — are unfortunately sold out.

As for the pear tree, Mon River Garden Center in Fairmont, owned by Lori and Duke Durbin, can take care of that portion of the gift. Duke said they sell pear trees all year long for about $25, but spring is typically the time to plant fruit trees.

Adding up the “partridge in a pear tree,” the total cost comes to $31.

Bridgeport-based Wedding Wings, which Gary and Pamela Cooper own, provides doves for weddings and funerals. The business has a total of 45 doves.

For funerals, Gary and Pamela place three doves, representing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in a see-through chapel, and a single dove symbolizes the spirit of the deceased. Two large baskets are also full of birds that stand for the friends and relatives, Gary said.

He said the dove release is symbolic of the spirit of the deceased making his or her final journey home, with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as escorts. The cost for this service is $175.

In terms of weddings, the bride and groom each has a dove to release into the air with a big flock of birds. The price is usually $275, depending on the location, he said.

Gary’s brother, Larry Cooper, operates Highland Doves out of Morgantown. Together, they cover Marion, Taylor, Harrison, Lewis, Upshur, Monongalia and Preston counties.

Wedding Wings does not sell doves, but Gary said doves typically cost about $50 apiece to purchase. However, his birds aren’t the same as the domesticated doves that come from a pet store.

“These doves are trained to come home,” Gary said. “They’ve got to be in good physical shape.”

So if a person bought “two turtle doves,” they may pay about $100.

French hens were hard to find, but Tractor Supply Co. in Kingwood carries chicks around Easter time.

The price varies from year to year and depending on the type, but is typically somewhere around $2.99 for chicks. Customers must buy six or more.

The price of “three French hens” adds up to $8.97.

At the Exotic Jungle in Morgantown, people can locate singing birds like society finches, for $29.99 each, and parakeets, for $19.99 each. At the lower cost for parakeets, “four calling birds” would be $79.96.

What about the “five golden rings”?

Masman Jewelers in Sabraton, owned by Lisa Morehead and Patricia Smyth, carries all colors of golden rings, including white gold, yellow gold, rose gold and two-toned. White gold has surpassed yellow gold as the most popular, Morehead said.

She said customers can find gold bands with diamonds, as well as diamonds of different colors. The cost varies significantly depending on the carats of the jewels, but the most popular is 14 carat.

A plain gold band starts at about $150, and the most expensive one Morehead sold this season was $1,200.

By taking the lower cost, “five golden rings” would cost $750.

Different types of geese and swans are for sale at Future Visions Farms out of Greentown, Pa., according to its website.

Most of the geese cost $25, which makes “six geese a-laying” come out to $150.

The swans — from blacks swans to whooper swans to mute swans — cost anywhere from $350 to $600. To buy “seven swans a-swimming” at the minimum cost, a person would pay $2,450.

To track down “eight maids a-milking,” WorkForce West Virginia served as the source.

Courtney Sisk, public information specialist for the West Virginia Department of Commerce, said a milk maid would be classified in the industry category of “farmworker, farm and ranch animals.” According to data for the second quarter of 2013, the average hourly wage for a milk maid is $11.25, and the average annual wage is $23,390.

If “eight maids a-milking” worked for eight hours for one day, the cost would be $720.

Movements in Dance in Fairmont offers lessons in ballet, tap, jazz and acrobatics, as well as a fundamentals class, which is a preschool introduction to dance. Stephanie Lopez is the owner, instructor and choreographer of this dance studio, which is celebrating its 25th season, and her daughter Sophie Silnicki serves as the assistant choreographer.

Lopez said the studio charges $48 a month for a class that meets once a week, and offers discounts for each additional class that a student takes and special rates for families.

Shoes are also a cost related to dance, depending on the class, she said. Pointe shoes, which are the most expensive, are $85 to $100. In addition, dancers pay for their recital costumes, which are around $75 or $85 for each class. Students need tights and leotards for rehearsals, too.

Lopez said the more commitment dancers make, the greater benefits they will receive from their training. The benefits — such as self-confidence, a feeling of accomplishment, and discipline —  far outweigh the costs that are involved.

“I don’t think there’s anything better you can do for your child than offer them dance training,” she said. “It’s about exposing your child to the arts, teaching them an appreciation for the arts. Giving them dance training is life training.”

For one month, dance lessons for “nine ladies dancing” would cost $432.

The inspiration for the “10 lords a-leaping” was the Fairmont Senior High School Madrigal Singers.

Gregory DeVito, director of the Madrigal Singers and director of vocal music at Fairmont Senior, said this group is a longstanding tradition at the school. They primarily sing music from the Renaissance era, including music in English, German, Italian, French and Latin.

Students audition for the Madrigal Singers, and the members include sophomores, juniors and seniors, he said. This year, the group is made up of 55 members — 18 lords and the rest ladies.

The Madrigal Singers held their Christmas concert on Dec. 20, and are planning an event for February. They will hold their Christmas feast next December on campus, DeVito said.

He explained that the students provide their own Renaissance-style costumes, which are personalized in the terms of the colors and fabrics. Some take care of their costumes for as little as $70 or $80, while others go all out and spend as much as $800.

The Madrigal Singers go on a competition trip every year. This year, they’re heading to Nashville, Tenn., in April to compete against schools in a couple different divisions of choral singing. Fundraising opportunities are available to cover the cost of the trips, DeVito said.

To dress 10 lords at the lowest price, the cost would be $700.

For a different take on the “11 pipers piping,” plumber pipe fitters with the City of Fairmont Utilities served as the subjects this time.

David Sago, utility manager, said the base salary of these pipers starts around $29,000, with benefits. With overtime that they receive during the year for being called out to jobs and extended time to manage the water and sewer lines throughout the system, they end up averaging about $36,000 or $37,000.

The cost for a standard PVC pipe for water line repairs — about 6 inches in diameter and 20 feet long — is roughly $120, and then the crews cut the pipe to size. The City of Fairmont Utilities annually budgets about $300,000 for new line replacement and repairs of old lines in the city’s system, Sago said.

“There are a lot of costs that go into putting a piece of pipe into the ground,” he said.

Breaking down the plumber pipe fitters’ salaries into hourly wages based on $36,000, they would make roughly $17.31 an hour. So for eight hours of work from “11 pipers piping,” the cost would be about $1,523.28.

And last but certainly not least, let’s not forget about those important drummers.

Band director T.J. Bean said the Busy Bee Band & Honeybees of East Fairmont High School currently has 24 drummers, including eight snare drums, five sets of multiples, seven bass drums and four cymbals. All these instruments are the property of the band.

He explained that drums range in price from a good quality snare drum at $400 to $600, to a set of multiples at $800 to $1,000. Plus, there is always maintenance on the drums, and the drummers are responsible for their drumsticks. Also, the drum harnesses can need parts and padding replaced.

Each drummer is probably wearing and using at least $1,000 worth of instrument and equipment, and the cymbal players would be about $400 to $600 each, Bean said. Also, some of the drummers have their own drum sets at home, which is an additional cost to the student, Bean said.

He said the band boosters and the parents do a tremendous job in raising money and allowing the program to continue to operate like it has for 42 years.

“There’s a lot of money that it takes to run a band program,” Bean said. “We’re very fortunate to live in a community that supports (us).”

The cost of all the equipment and instruments for “12 drummers drumming” would be around $12,000 total.

So if anyone is really up for buying their “true love” all the items in  “The 12 Days of Christmas” song, be prepared to spend $18,945.21, to be exact. Just imagine unwrapping such an elaborate package with your name on the tag.

Email Jessica Borders at jborders@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.