Festival of Trees garners nearly $10,000 for dental clinic

10 years ago

    PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — From Christmas trees made to look like actual snowmen to ones decorated with birdhouses, cooking utensils — and even money — the region’s first-ever Festival of Trees was a resounding success as nearly $10,000 was raised for the St. Apollonia Dental Clinic.
“Our goal was to earn $5,000,” said Sherry Chamberland, project chair and treasurer of the dental clinic, “so to nearly double that, we were amazed.”

Twenty-four businesses/organizations and one family supplied pre-lit, artificial Christmas trees that were either decorated traditionally or to fit a particular theme. Community members could pay $2 to view the trees and purchase raffle tickets for 50 cents each and deposit the tickets in boxes by their favorite trees. At the conclusion of the three-day event, which was held Dec. 5-7, one lucky winner was drawn from each box and the winner received not only the tree, but also any associated gifts that the businesses/organizations chose to place under it.
“Because we only charged admission to people 12 and over, we know that we sold 630 admissions,” said Chamberland. “By the time we factor in all those beautiful children who were under 12 that attended, our estimate is between 1,300-1,500 people actually came through during the event.”
Chamberland said organizers were hoping for 10-15 trees the first year.
“We ended up having 25 trees which was a big surprise to us especially since we really didn’t give businesses a lot of time to prepare,” she said. “They jumped right on the bandwagon and several of the businesses that were there this year have told us that they’re coming back next year with bigger trees and more gifts. Some businesses that did not do trees, but came to check us out, have already told us they want in next year. We’ll be setting the bar a little higher next year.
“We really didn’t know if the business community would be receptive to the whole concept, but wow, did they ever step up,” said Chamberland. “We were amazed, and more want to come.”
With this being the first time for such a fundraiser in the area, Chamberland said she was equally unsure how the community would receive it.
“Frequently people would come in and they weren’t really sure what we were about. They came in to see what was happening, and they were kind of stunned by what they saw … pleasantly so,” she said. “They’d whip out their cell phones and start calling and texting and we would hear people talking to others saying, ‘You have got to come see this,’ and the next thing we’d know we’d have another wave of people. That worked out pretty well for us.
“We even had one person — Sue Bernard — who has a sister that lives downstate,” said Chamberland, “and she gave her sister a virtual tour of the festival via her smartphone. She’d stop at every tree and they were using the FaceTime app and she’d give a tree-by-tree description. That was fun to see.”
Though the fundraiser was held at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Presque Isle, visitors came from throughout Aroostook County to see the creatively-decorated trees.
“Winners came from Presque Isle, Hodgdon, Fort Fairfield, Easton, Mapleton, Limestone and Caribou,” said Chamberland. “We even had a winner from Virginia who was up here visiting family, and that person donated her tree to next year’s festival.”
Chamberland said organizers are looking for ways to improve the event and are “certainly open to suggestions.” She said it’s possible that they have already outgrown their space after only one year.
“If we have the number of trees next year that we think we will,” she said, “we will have to look for a different venue. The Knights of Columbus were great to work with, but we might need more space. We’ll have to wait and see.
“Electrical load is an issue, too,” she said. “In fact, Steve Nichols was kind enough to come and assess the wiring for us to make sure that we could accommodate 25 trees without jeopardizing the hall.”
According to Dr. Erik Johnson, pediatric dentist at the St. Apollonia Dental Clinic, some of the proceeds from the fundraiser will be used for expenses associated with conscious sedation.
“Conscious sedation is a deeper sedation than what nitrous oxide can offer. It will really take care of kids that are extremely anxious and need more relaxation to complete their dental treatment,” he said. “Conscious sedation requires things like emergency medicine supplies. We have to be prepared in case there is a medical emergency, and that requires some anesthesia supplies and they’re pretty expensive.”
Johnson said he was pleased with the inaugural fundraiser.
“It was very successful,” he said. “It was a big showing and that’s what I was really impressed by. A lot of businesses in the area were willing to donate trees and gifts. I thought it was wonderful. The community really came together to make it work.”
Organizers are looking to grow the festival, and will rely on community members moving forward to help.
“To grow this festival the way we want to, we’re going to have to have more volunteers,” said Chamberland. “We’re going to have to look outside our board of directors and we’ll be asking the community to help us out with that. We will probably form sub-committees and will ask for volunteers to serve.
“I would really like to send a huge thank you to all of the businesses and organizations that donated trees or gifts that went under the Community Spirit Tree, because without their participation, this would not have happened,” she said. “I can’t thank them enough.”