The Star-Herald

Festival of Trees to take on a new look this year

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — With autumn here and winter just around the corner, many may wonder what there is to look forward to in the coming fourth quarter. Going to school has changed, sports are different, shopping and church can be awkward, work can be wacky and our lives are definitely not the same. 

But there is good news: The 2020 holiday season has not been canceled, and neither has the St. Apollonia Dental Clinic’s annual Festival of Trees.  

The festival committee has announced that the festival will indeed be held this year, albeit in a new virtual format in order to comply with pandemic guidelines for safety.  

The committee has been brainstorming for months about how to make this community event happen despite the pandemic.  When it became clear that the usual location and format of the festival could not happen this year, thoughts turned to a virtual event.  

Sherry Chamberland, project chairwoman, said, “2020 has been a challenging year for everyone.  We knew that many of our tree sponsors who have been so generous to us in the past would not be able to participate this year, but we felt it was important to present the tree festival in a different format, even if it meant it would be on a much smaller scale, to provide for continuity of the event and to provide the much-needed fundraising.”

All proceeds from the yearly festival benefit dental care for Aroostook County children.  

“The children of Aroostook County still require dental health services, despite the pandemic, so we needed to keep this successful fundraiser alive by offering it in a way that conformed to CDC recommendations for social distancing,” Chamberland said.

Typically, tree sponsors purchase, set up and decorate their trees, adding an array of gifts. Festival visitors can purchase tickets and, as they browse, deposit tickets on the trees and displays they would like to win. On the event’s final day, winners are drawn for each display.

Tree sponsors for this year’s virtual festival so far number 30. Though details are still being finalized, setup will take place at the Presque Isle Knights of Columbus Hall at appointed times over a two-day period, to allow for social distancing.

“The event will be coming to you at home, with detailed footage of the beautiful, gift-laden trees to view whenever you want, at your leisure and, of course, with the ability to purchase tickets while making a donation to this cause. All proceeds from the Festival of Trees are used to provide treatment for Aroostook County kids,” Chamberland said. 

WAGM-TV will film the trees and present a one-hour special on Dec. 3, serving as the kickoff for Festival of Trees 2020.  Ticket sales will occur by phone during the special and during the festival’s usual hours on Dec. 4-6, with additional days and hours to be announced. Volunteers at the K of C Hall will place purchased tickets in the buckets.

Following the special’s airing, the television station will make a link available for people to watch the program at their convenience. 

“You’ll enjoy choosing your favorite trees right from home this year.  Let our volunteers do the work of placing the tickets in the buckets for you, and hope for that phone call telling you that you’ve won,” said Dr. Norma Desjardins, St. Apollonia executive director.

Committee members suggest this might be a good year to join forces with another business and sponsor a tree together. People may also donate items for the Community Spirit Tree, a popular tree that had gift items with a total value of over $2,000 last year.  

“It’s also a great year for families or other groups to sponsor a tree if looking for a fun activity that benefits so many children in our communities,” Desjardins said. “All of these will help St. Apollonia’s work toward putting a smile on the face of every child.” 

Contact Chamberland at sherry@norstartitle.com for more information about tree sponsorship. 

Get the Rest of the Story

Thank you for reading your 4 free articles this month. To continue reading, and support local, rural journalism, please subscribe.