INNISFAIL – Last Saturday morning Dale Dunham was at the Innisfail Festival of Trees putting the final touches on the annual 10-day event, which briefly launched the previous evening.
Other volunteers, including Town of Innisfail Mayor Jean Barclay, were also at the Innisfail Library/Learning Centre.
They were enthusiastically greeting young and old citizens who wanted to take a long peek at the dazzling examples of Christmas spirit; 20 breathtaking, show stopping trees sponsored and decorated by community members.
The trees are the centrepiece for a fundraiser to give the community’s less fortunate – families, children and seniors - some badly needed holiday season cheer.
“It’s the Christmas spirit. It's about being a part of your community,” said Dunham, a committed member of the festival’s organizing committee. “When I got here before 10 a.m. there were already people lined up ready to come in.
“Being here and seeing all the smiles and seeing grandparents watching their grandkids running around is just heartwarming and it’s what this time of year is supposed to be about,” he added.
The event, which is running from Nov. 25 to Dec. 4, is the encore second annual Innisfail Festival of Trees.
While the novelty of the inaugural event is gone there is still strong community and volunteer interest and support for a festival of trees.
“Everybody has done just a fantastic job. The trees are absolutely beautiful,” said Dunham. “We didn't have as many entrants for the tree decorating this year. But there's so many other things going on that people are being pulled in a lot of other directions.
“Last year, we were the only event of its type happening in the area, so we had a lot more interest because of that."
Dunham said it was decided by the organizing committee to offer different sizes of trees for sponsorship.
“With the smaller trees we had some comments last year by many people that they have small spaces in their homes, and they couldn't take big giant trees home,” he said. “This year by having to do different sizes we will be able to accommodate more people and their space requirements.”
The festival has attracted sponsorships for 20 six and half foot and four-foot trees, compared to 24 in 2021.
The decorated trees will be auctioned off starting with a reserve bid of $100 for the smaller trees and $200 for larger ones. Bidding on the larger trees will go in increments of $20, with smaller ones moving in $10 increments.
Money raised from the auction, along with funds from a raffle and 50/50 draw, will go to the Innisfail Christmas Bureau, Innisfail and District Food Bank and Dairy Queen Angel Tree program.
“And we also sponsor some of the different seniors’ programs here in town. As well, we're working with a couple of other partners to make sure their programs are well funded,” he said.
The festival will include several other events. The Innisfail Public Library will have a puzzle ornament workshop on Dec. 1 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. for children ages eight to 14.
There will be a Holiday Market in the Community Room on Saturday, Dec. 3 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
It will feature artisan venders and crafters, and stations for DIY ornaments, holiday button making and colouring. There will also be Hometown Christmas Cookie Decorating from noon until 2 p.m.
There will even be a Grinch display set up for folks who want to have photos taken with the holiday season icon.
The festival wrap-up party on Dec. 4 from noon to 4 p.m. will feature local and out-of-town singers and musicians Mary Anne Message, Tom Lindl and Friends and Cochrane’s Turner and Tessa Bates.
The party will also feature a performance of Narnia from the dancers of Joy’s School of Dance.
The festival will close with the announcement of the best decorated trees and the citizens who are taking them home.