Bethlehem, Penn. bills itself as "Christmas City." Every year police chief Jason Schiffer and Bethlehem Township police chief Daniel Pancoast toss a tree to prove it. (AP/Matt Rourke)

Bethlehem, Penn. bills itself as “Christmas City.” Where else would two police chiefs toss a tree to raise money for charity? (AP/Matt Rourke)

Each December, the Police Chiefs of Bethlehem and Bethlehem Township, Penn. get together to toss a Christmas tree as far as it will go. In December of 2012, Bethlehem Township Police Chief Daniel Pancoast and Bethlehem Police Chief Jason Schiffer joined Bill Littlefield to discuss this tradition.

The story originally aired on Dec. 22, 2013.

More than a decade ago, the owner of a car repair shop in Bethlehem, Penn. decided to hold a competition to see who could throw the Christmas tree that adorned his shop’s lobby the farthest. “Whether Jameson’s had anything to do with that, I don’t know,” Bethlehem Township Police Chief Daniel Pancoast said. “But that’s how it started.”

These days, the competition boils down to Chief Pancoast, who’s been tossing trees from the beginning, and whomever is the Police Chief of Bethlehem. For two years in a row, that was Chief Jason Schiffer, who says he wasn’t informed of the tradition while interviewing for the post. “I was really surprised last year when I found out that was part of my duties,” Schiffer said.

Schiffer says he “got lucky and prevailed” in last year’s event, which means that Pancoast was required to lead the horse that carried Schiffer to this year’s competition.  Chief Pancoast’s wife was also part of the procession.  She walked up the middle of a four lane highway holding the leash of a goat, for reasons that were less clear.

According to a report in The Morning Call, a good throw makes it just 100 to 250 inches, dropping branches and needles along the way.  “It’s remarkable how someone of my size can throw a small, 6-foot tree, such a small distance,” Pancoast laughed.

Both police chiefs were competing on behalf of Turning Point of Lehigh Valley, an agency that assists victims of domestic violence.  “As a young officer I was just amazed at what they would do,” Schiffer said.  “Domestic situations are some of the toughest things that any police officer can go into. And having an organization in our community like that, it’s really such a valuable thing.”

For the record, Schiffer won last Saturday’s tree toss for the second year in a row.  But, Chief Pancoast doesn’t sound dismayed.

“I don’t mind competing with such a strong athletic competitor as Chief Schiffer and possibly embarrassing myself slightly, as long as I receive the check for Turning Point at the end.”