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Innisfail Festival of Trees brings out welcomed dose of joy and hope (6 photos)

Hundreds attend final weekend of second annual event in Innisfail that raised thousands of dollars for the community’s less fortunate

INNISFAIL – For many citizens this year’s holiday season is one that is up against a tough economy and uncertainty but hundreds and hundreds of Innisfailians brushed it off to take in the second annual Innisfail Festival of Trees with its gloriously celebratory and hopeful atmosphere.

The 10-day event at the Innisfail Library/Learning Centre (ILLC) from Nov. 25 to Dec. 4 featured 21 sponsored and gorgeously decorated trees; ones that instantly ignited the spirit of Christmas and its welcome feeling of joy, warmth and nostalgia.

When the event’s final day arrived on Dec. 4 festival committee members proudly acknowledged all had been successfully auctioned off despite any and all challenges.

“We know that a lot of the community members were struggling this year, everybody was having a hard time getting out and getting stuff done,” said Riki Findley, the festival’s creative director. “We're seeing a slowdown everywhere in town. Businesses are struggling. So, it was literally nice to see everybody come together for an event like this again.”

As committee members were wrapping up the trees to be taken to their new homes, organizers declared the tree auction had contributed to about $5,000 that was raised from the event to give to the Innisfail and District Food Bank, Innisfail Christmas Bureau, the Dairy Queen Angel Tree program, as well as to the residents at Autumn Grove and Rosefield Centre.

“A lot of these (agencies) especially the food bank, Christmas Bureau and the seniors’ facilities in town really struggle this time of year,” said Findley. “Everybody's feeling the pinch. So, it's really nice when we can get members of the community and different businesses to step up and come together and really help support these facilities and people who need the help this time of year.

“People shouldn't be struggling. People shouldn't be sad. Christmas trees shouldn't be empty. Stockings shouldn't be bare,” she added. “We're just trying to spread the spirit of the season.”

While the festival was considered an enormous success in its 2021 inaugural year committee members added an Artisan and Crafter Holiday Market in the ILLC’s Community Room on Dec. 3.  The market was held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The added festival event, which attracted 15 vendors and featured holiday season activity tables for children, was also a resounding success with at least 500 attending and creating a parking shortage outside the ILLC.

“It was just so nice to see the community come together again and support us and see how well everyone was enjoying it,” said Crystal Kemp, festival chair and treasurer. “Seeing the kids’ faces. That was the best part. They loved all the crafts and it was just a good day. Everyone had a great time.”

She added the committee was especially appreciative for everyone working at the ILLC’s Innisfail Public Library, which was hosting a cookie decorating activity that was being held in conjunction with the Hometown Christmas event.

“And just letting us be in their space nonstop. They've (library) been so understanding and so helpful with everything and anything we needed,” said Kemp.

And of course, the festival concluded with a wrap-up event in the Community Room during the afternoon of Dec. 4.

It began with a 40-minute musical performance from Turner, Tessa and Amelia Bates. The trio from Cochrane performed Christmas carols and other numbers to a small but appreciative audience.

And then came the talented dancers from Innisfail’s Joy’s School of Dance with their mesmerizing performance of Narnia.

Beforehand, committee member Dale Dunham declared there would be a third Innisfail Festival of Trees in 2023. He added committee members are already looking into new and fresh ideas.

 “We had our suggestion from one of our volunteers and I call it the Book of Brilliant Ideas,” said Dunham. “We've got a couple pages filled up for ideas for next year that we will carry out. We're going to have three different sizes of trees and I think we'll probably start even a little earlier next year.

“We're really happy with how things have worked out.”


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