Willow Tree

Willow Tree Goes to Washington

Staffers and Volunteers at White House Easter Egg Roll Treated to Willow Tree Chicken Salad 

What started out like any other Willow Tree tasting event at a Virginia Costco turned out to be the opportunity of a lifetime. Customers were enjoying their free samples, when one in particular explained that she was an event organizer for the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. She was very interested in serving Willow Tree chicken salad to event staffers and volunteers. 

Fast forward through a few logistics, such as security checks and chicken salad sandwich preparation, and Willow Tree president Wally Cekala and his family found themselves on the White House lawn on Easter Monday. We asked Wally to expand on some of the details about this great day in Willow Tree history.


What were your thoughts leading up the event itself? 

Well, to be honest, I took it with a grain of salt at first until I received the email confirming that it was really going to happen! My son Chris was on the road show in Virginia. Due to security requirements, and a little time pressure, he was immediately put through a security check and approved to be an on-site vendor. Then the order was placed for both our regular chicken salad as well as our new cranberry walnut variety. I like getting feedback on our latest chicken salad, but I sure didn’t expect it to happen on the White House grounds! 

While Chris was going to be the only person from the company working the event, my family and I were invited as guests. They thought it was just surreal. 


What did Chris do to prepare? 

Chris had to get through security at six in the morning. He worked with two chefs to make chicken salad sandwiches with bread from a local bakery. After almost four hours of preparation, the gates opened. 

You can imagine how many staffers and volunteers it takes to manage an outdoor event for over thirty thousand people, never mind the White House security requirements. That’s why event organizers look for really good food to serve the crew that works at the event all day. We were happy to be one of the vendors chosen. 


What was it like to be one of the thousands of families invited to the White House as guests? 

The White House Easter Egg Roll tradition goes back over 130 years. Everyone was so excited to be there. There are lots of musical artists, and it really is an awesome event. I think that everyone on that lawn felt like “Mr. Smith goes to Washington.” I can’t say enough about the people who run it and the Secret Service. They are very nice to the public. 

Between all of the families, the music, and the entertainment, it almost felt like Disney! There were so many people that guests enter in groups, staggered over time. It really was just amazing. We really felt lucky to be there, and we’d do it again if we could. 

For my family, one of the best parts couldn’t have been planned. As we were leaving, one of the staffers asked us if we tried the chicken salad! He said he loved it!

If you’d like to learn more about the annual White House Easter Egg Roll, click here

The cranberry walnut chicken salad mentioned in this article is now available at the Willow Tree Retail Store in Attleboro, MA. For directions and hours, click here.

Four Generations Enjoy Willow Tree Farm Chicken Pie

The Guiney family of Southern Maine first discovered Willow Tree chicken pies almost 30 years ago. Since then, they have become a favorite meal among four generations of the family. Since Sheila Guiney was the first mom in the family to buy Willow Tree chicken pie, we thought we’d ask her to tell us about her family’s long-enjoyed Willow Tree meal traditions.


When did you first discover Willow Tree? 

We first found Willow Tree when my husband and I were both teaching principals in the eighties. That meant we were often in late afternoon meetings, and we both had long commutes home. Most nights there was very little time to spend on dinner preparation, so I thought I’d try finding a frozen alternative to make a nice, substantial meal.

My kids, and now my grandkids, were brought up on Willow Tree chicken pies. I got my mother to start serving them when she took care of my girls. Now my daughter and I make them for my grandchildren. That’s four generations of big fans.

Truth be told, Willow Tree wasn’t the first chicken pie product I tried. It was actually the second, but it has remained the only chicken pie I’ve purchased ever since! I don’t even remember the name of the first chicken pie we tried (from a different company), but I was very disappointed with it. The crust used to crack or sink into the pie. It just didn’t work, but I didn’t want to give up. We needed to find something delicious that we could count on. That’s when I noticed the nice Willow Tree packaging, and we gave it a try. I have literally bought them exclusively ever since.


Do you remember what you thought of Willow Tree the first time you and your family tried the chicken pie?

I remember first being impressed with the crust. It remained intact just like a homemade pie would. It doesn’t crack or sink. Also, the chicken pieces were really large. They are exactly how you would make a chicken pie from scratch.

Over time we remained impressed with the consistency of the product. You always get the same great-tasting product. It really does look, feel and taste like a homemade pie.


What was a Willow Tree night like in your home?

Buying a Willow Tree chicken pie was part of our weekly shopping. I would have at least one in the freezer at all times.  It was a frequent dinner.

Whoever came home first would put the pie in the oven. We’d get the kids settled and they’d do their homework while the pie was cooking. When my husband and I were both working full time, we’d start the day very early, and try to time each evening so we were eating dinner by the six o’clock news. The nice part was that our busiest days also meant a delicious Willow Tree dinner. We’d make an easy side dish or sometimes just have the pie. It was great!

This is the same exact routine that we follow now with my grandchildren. I take care of the kids and put the pie in the oven so it’s ready when their parents come home. Then they go to hockey or baseball. That’s the convenient thing about Willow Tree pies: they work whether you need an early dinner or a late dinner, based on the kids’ activities.


What makes you keep Willow Tree on your list of regular dinners to serve your family?

It’s easy for parents to make, and everyone loves it. One of my grandkids is a fussy eater, but he is actually Willow Tree’s biggest fan, so you can’t beat that. My daughter’s family lived with me for six months when they moved back to Maine, and that’s when we really introduced the grandkids to Willow Tree. All I had to do was go from the 26oz. size I was using for my husband and me to the family size, which worked for all of us.

But it’s not just for immediate family. Whenever we need to bring food to friends or relatives, for a variety of situations, everyone loves Willow Tree. I sometimes bring it frozen so it can be used anytime. It’s a good gift.

Willow Tree chicken pie is a dish that you can be proud to serve to company. I’ve done it many times because it’s so reliable and you just know it’s going to be good.