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Festival of Trees benefits hospital
By LISA BRITTON
Of the Baker City Herald
Roll out the red carpet and get ready for Christmas the second annual Festival of Trees will be here soon.
The two-day benefit for St. Elizabeth Health Services begins Friday, Dec. 6, with an evening gala at the Oregon Trail Regional Museum, 2480 Grove St. Tickets are $25 for the gala and are available at Ryder Bros., The Sycamore Tree and Pioneer Bank. There are only 500 tickets available.
Saturday, Dec. 7, is Family Day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., when entrance fees will be a can of food for local food banks or an unwrapped child's toy or garment that will be donated to the local CASA organization.
December's celebration is only the end product of planning; the Festival committee has been working on preparations since January, when they started looking for sponsors.
"We get people to sponsor a tree for $500," said Denise Van Artsdalen, communications director for St. Elizabeth and co-chair for the Festival.
She said they have 20 trees to sponsor, which brings in $10,000. Then they have to find volunteers to decorate the trees.
"We buy the tree, we buy the lights," Van Artsdalen said.
Then, she said they give the decorators $450 each to buy decorations and anything else they might need.
There are 15 artificial trees and five live trees. Some artificial trees have been in the decoration process since June.
Each tree has a decor theme, and this year's include: Have a Very Merry Christmoose, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, The Best of Baker County, Copper and Spice and Everything Nice, Pioneer Kitchen, A Child is Born, and many others.
"These trees are absolutely incredible," Van Artsdalen said.
The final products are then offered to the public in an auction at the gala.
A red carpet affair
The gala is a formal affair, and attendees will receive the red-carpet treatment, Van Artsdalen said.
The carpet will be protected by a lighted canopy, and women will be escorted from the cars to the museum door by young men from Baker High School, she said.
The event includes hors d'oeuvres, dessert buffet, a no-host bar and live background music. Professional portraits will be taken by Baker City Photography.
And those are just the extras.
The highlight of the evening is a live Christmas tree auction when everyone's hard work will be displayed and bid on to take home. Van Artsdalen said the decorated trees can go for $500 to $3,000.
There will also be a silent auction for wreaths and miniature trees.
Last year the Festival of Trees raised $30,000.
Funds raised at the auction will be dedicated to the new 4,600 square foot birth center at St. Elizabeth. The center will include four labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum rooms, including a sleeping area for expectant fathers, said Zane Lockwood, co-chair for the Festival and vice president at Pioneer Bank. Ground breaking for the center was Oct. 2.
The gala doesn't stop after all the trees are sold participants will be able to dance until midnight to the music of the BHS jazz band.
When it's all said and done, over 100 people help with the Festival, Van Artsdalen said.
"It's a perfect way to usher in the holiday season in an elegant and festive manner," Van Artsdalen said.
For further information about the Festival of Trees, contact Van Artsdalen at 523-8102.
Volunteers get trees ready
Ginger Savage is one of the 20 volunteer decorators, and has been gathering decorations and planning her Festival of Trees design since July.
She said she started with a page full of theme ideas, but when she narrowed it down she found that there weren't many ornaments available.
"They recommend 300 ornaments per tree," she said.
Since each decorator is given $450 to purchase decorations, she also had to look for reasonably-priced ornaments.
She finally decided on a theme of "Polar Dreams."
"Everything on the tree is white or silver, with blue accents," she said.
Decorating is a tedious task and takes quite a while due to a few rules and regulations.
The big one is that all decorations have to be wired onto the branches.
To arrange the lights, she said she has to secure the strings every third light.
After that, she said the tree will be decorated in the ballroom of the museum right before the festival.
"We're going to have to wear gloves when we decorate," she said, because many of the ornaments are snow white.
The actual decorating may be difficult, she said, because they are all new ornaments and she won't know where they look best. Unlike family heirlooms that have their place on the tree every year.
"There's going to be a lot of experimenting."
The ornaments aren't the only decorations for this festival tree Ginger wanted to make the tree a package.
"When they buy my tree, they get Christmas in a box," she said.
Ginger's mother-in-law, Marie Savage, has sewn a tree skirt to go with the color theme, along with four matching place mats and a table runner. There will also be two wreaths accompanying the seven-foot tree.
Then, Ginger bought gifts with the leftover money to put under the tree; all the "Polar Dreams" gifts are white or silver.
"The gifts are hard because you don't know who the tree's going to," she said.
Ginger wanted to get involved with the Festival after she attended the gala last year.
"It was such a fun evening and the trees were so beautiful," she said.
"I'm already thinking about what I can do for next year."