INNISFAIL – The town’s festive season is right around the corner and organizers for the 3rd Annual Innisfail Festival of Trees are busy at work to create its best and brightest ever nine-day event.
The festival begins on Nov. 24 and runs for nine days until Dec. 2 at the Innisfail Library/Learning Centre.
Brandi Laughlin, festival chair and Dale Dunham, the event’s secretary, are enthusiastic members of the executive committee who are optimistic for the festival’s continued growth and its determined effort to raise even more money and awareness to support the vulnerable and financially challenged citizens in the community.
Last year citizens, businesses and organizations sponsored 21 gorgeously decorated trees that were voted on and then auctioned off to support those in need.
The trees have three sizes this year, with a four-foot one going for $80, a six-and-half-foot tree costing $150 and a larger seven-foot tree going for $175. Decorating the trees will be up to the sponsor and must be completed by Nov. 23.
The festival is also selling 50/50 tickets and will have a Rudolph’s Raffle, with proceeds also going to support the worthy cause.
In 2022 the Innisfail Festival of Trees raised about $7,000, which was distributed to the Innisfail Christmas Bureau, the Innisfail and District Food Bank, the Innisfail Dairy Queen’s Angel Tree program, Autumn Grove, Sunset Manor and a family sponsorship Christmas program that was organized by Innisfailian Kristen Spatz.
“Every year we hope to be bigger and better. Last year we added the market, which ended up being a huge success,” said Laughlin. We're going to keep with the market and with what we've done every year up to this point.”
And that will include bringing back the Community Tree, which was a hit attraction for the inaugural festival of trees but absent last year.
“It was missed,” said Laughlin. “And we've listened and we will have one this year.”
Dunham said the festival’s first two years gave the executive committee valuable insight into what the community needed for the holiday season.
He said his committee has formed partnerships with the Christmas Bureau, the local food bank, senior lodges and other holiday season programs in the community.
“We have really found that with a solid footing underneath us now for who we are partnering with, the focus now is just to try and raise more money,” said Dunham. “We have a good foundation and now it's just trying to bring more people in and to get the exposure out there because last year would say, ‘Oh, I didn’t even know this was happening. I just kind of stumbled upon it.
“We're hoping in the future to be working more closely with the town and other social clubs to make a real impactful nine-day event going forward.”
However, Dunham added there were good things that came out of last year’s festival, including working closely with the Innisfail and District Chamber of Commerce and introducing the festival’s Holiday Market Day, which will return this year from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 2.
In 2022 the Holiday Market Day attracted 11 artisan vendors and crafters, and there are 15 signed up for 2023.
For more information on the festival, and for how citizens can volunteer, go to the festival’s website at innisfailfestivaloftrees.ca