One of the best events every Christmas is the Festival of Trees. For years people throughout Grand County have come to the Festival of Trees to enjoy the creatively decorated Christmas trees and wreaths, tasty desserts, free drinks and hot dogs, good company and of course, Santa Claus.
But like so many events this year, holding a large, indoor gathering is not a good idea. Cancelling the event was a strong possibility and such a cancellation would mean losing both a popular community event and a much-needed fund raising opportunity for Grand County’s many non-profit organizations.
The only other option to cancellation was redesigning the event to meet the criteria forced on all of us by the coronavirus. The question became how to redesign the Festival of Trees to allow fund-raising to continue and still give the community a chance to enjoy the spirit of Christmas and the holiday season.
Taking the lead in re-thinking the Festival of Trees was the Fraser River Valley Lions Club which has sponsored and organized the event for many years. To understand how the Lions re-thought the event I met with the Festival organizers for the last few years, Jan and Bob Boynton. Over a pumpkin-spiced Latte at the Roastry, Jan and Bob detailed how the event will happen this year.
The first issue was where to place the trees so they could be viewed in safe yet accessible locations. The Festival Planning Committee hit on the idea to place them in local businesses. The question was whether enough businesses, which have been extremely hard hit by the many coronavirus restrictions, would be willing to participate. Bottom line, 26 local businesses signed up to host a Christmas tree and allow non-customers to come in and view the trees (and hopefully buy them!).
The next step was to make sure that non-profit organizations would still be interested in decorating the trees. In the past, these decorated Christmas trees were sold to the highest bidder with the non-profits keeping 100% of the money. Under the new format, all trees will be offered for sale at $350 but the buyers are encouraged to pay more as an additional donation to the non-profit organization. The Lions’ Club purchases the trees and stands and delivers them to the highest bidder at no cost. Bottom line, 23 non-profits immediately agreed to do the decorations. Last year’s average bid for a Christmas tree was over $500 so this year’s fixed price is a bargain.
All the trees will be decorated by the end of the day on December 2nd and the trees will be delivered to their buyers on December 12th, so you have about 10 days to view them—and buy your favorite if you want. The local businesses hosting the trees will have all the information needed for an interested buyer to claim their tree. The Lions Club is creating a map of Christmas tree locations. For those wishing to view the trees, you can think of it as a pub crawl only with your children attending. In my mind, I will think of this as a trip to New York City and gazing at all the finely decorated Christmas store windows and with a hot apple cider (or other beverage) in hand.
My family will be helping to decorate the Christmas tree for Grand Kids, which will be located at Grand Adventures in downtown Winter Park. While my decorating skills have been questionable since, well forever, I will happily be joined by family and friends and especially my 2-year old granddaughter. We also plan to enjoy a “tree crawl” once all the trees are ready for viewing. Given the weather and because trees will be in various Fraser, Winter Park, Grand Lake and Granby locations, the tree crawl will include a warm car too.
There are 26 businesses that will host a Christmas Tree. Please remember when you buy a tree, 100% of what you pay will go to the non-profit and the tree will be delivered to your home free of charge, courtesy of the Lions.
While this may not be the Festival of Trees we have experienced in the past, it will still be a fun activity for the family and support the many wonderful non-profits and businesses in Grand County. And for the kids, Santa will still hear your Christmas wishes even if you can’t see him in person. Bob and Jan said, “The Lions Club just couldn’t let this holiday event go dark this year—it’s 17th consecutive year—even if it won’t be the big social event that brings so many in our community together. It’ll still be fun and there will be lots of beautiful trees to see and buy.”
For more information on this year’s Festival of Trees, please visit the Lions’ website at https://fraservalleylions.org/. I will also give an update on the Festival in the December 4th edition of the Winter Park Times.
Please send any comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.