The first snow has already fallen. The early birds have made a few runs and Winter Park/Fraser businesses are gearing up for the Thanksgiving crowd. One more good snow and the winter season will be upon us.

Since arriving here a few years ago I have always marked the start of the ski season with one of the biggest, most family-oriented fundraising community events held each December – the Festival of Trees. Open to all, the Festival of the Trees brings the community together and offers something for all: incredible Christmas trees and wreaths (all decorated by our non-profits); wonderful desserts created by local restaurants: hot dogs and drinks, and: visiting with Santa and Mrs. Claus for the kids. If that’s not enough, it’s also FREE to all. 

This festival has grown over the years. First started years ago by some energic members of the Fraser Lions club, the festival started small and was first held at Cooper Creek and soon thereafter it moved to the old Beavers Lodge. Since then it’s grown so large that it now fills the entire gym areas in the Fraser Recreation Center, which is needed to display the 24 decorated Christmas Trees, 8 wreaths, the Dessert dishes,  a beer and wine bar (tips appreciated) and a small food area that hands out free hot dogs and drinks. And yes, there’s a special area for Santa & Ms. Claus to make a quick stop and meet all the youngsters who want to visit. This reporter has confirmed that Santa has indeed promised to once again make an appearance.

As you walk around and view the Christmas Trees and wreaths, please take note that this is an important way for our non-profits to raise some significant funds. To support your favorite non-profit, or just vote for the best decorated tree you see, each visitor can purchase tickets when they enter and then drop off the tickets at the tree of their choice. Each non-profit receives 100% of the value of the ticket. Also, visitors can bid on the Christmas Tree of their choice and if they win, the Lions club will deliver that tree to their house. Great way to support a worthy cause and avoid doing your own decorating. The non-profits also get 100% of the proceeds from the sale of their tree, wreath or Hanukah items, which last year earned them over $13,000. Adding to this total for local non-profits, last year over $2,500 was raised by favorite-tree ticket sales, with the most popular trees decorated by the Eternal Hills Christian pre-school and the Grand Animals 4-H club. 

But this event is only possible because of the many volunteers of the Fraser River Valley Lions club. Started in 2004 by Jill Childress,  it has continued to grow with three primary goals in mind: (1) give local non-profits the opportunity to raise money; (2) allow non-profits to promote their missions and (3)  my favorite is to provide a free & fun event for the entire community, kids especially. And remember, 100% of the proceeds from the sale of the decorated Christmas trees and favorite-tree tickets go to the non-profits.

For the last 9 years this event has been led by Bob and Jan Boynton. Their organization skills make sure that all the Lion volunteers are there to do the set up (Thursday night), support the non-profits on Friday as they decorate their Trees, staff the event Friday night and do clean-up and tree deliveries the next day. The Boynton’s even manage to make sure Santa Claus gets to meet all the kids before taking off! Over 60 Lion volunteers participate, so thanks to all, especially the Boynton’s.

The Festival of the Trees is on Friday, December 6th from 4 pm to 8 pm. It’s at the Fraser Rec Center. You’ll also see signs everywhere for the event, just as a reminder. The Boynton’s also guarantee that Santa will be there between 5:00 pm and 6:30 pm.

See you there!   For those who might want to see the trees being decorated, you’re invited to drop by the Rec Center on Friday to watch between 8 am and 2 pm. 

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