The Star-Herald

Festival of Trees makes its return to Presque Isle

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The St. Apollonia Festival of Trees made its return to the Aroostook Centre Mall, after being canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The clinic held the 7th annual Festival of Trees in the Aroostook Centre Mall over the weekend. People could buy tickets to win trees that had been prepared by local businesses and organizations, each adorned with extra gifts and prizes.

Hundreds came out over the course of the weekend to take in the spectacle of the dozens of trees decorated and standing side by side, and filled with the hopes of winning the prizes that lay underneath. 

The St. Apollonia Dental Clinic is a nonprofit dental clinic, created to provide comprehensive dental care to the children of Aroostook County (ages 0-20) who do not have regular access to it. The clinic was created in 2012, and since then, thousands of children have gotten the dental care that they need.

Norma and Paul Desjardins, co-founders of the St. Apollonia Dental Clinic in Presque Isle, attend the Festival of Trees in the Aroostook Centre Mall on Dec. 4. (David DiMinno | The Star-Herald)

The Clinic was founded by Norma and Paul Desjardins. The Desjardins saw problems with the MaineCare public insurance, mainly with their reimbursement rate. 

It did not make economic sense to provide dental services in a private practice setting because of this, and the couple aimed to create a nonprofit. Due to the many winter activities to be found in Aroostook County, a holiday-themed event was the perfect choice.

The Festival of Trees is the clinic’s one major annual fundraiser. In 2019, the festival raised nearly $100,000. In 2020, due to the pandemic, the clinic shifted gears and did a letter writing campaign, which raised $35,000. With the festival’s return, the clinic is on track to match the donations in 2019. All proceeds go to continuing work at the clinic.

“We wanted to create a nice, social, community event that helps people really get into the holiday spirit,” said Norma Desjardins.

There were 66 trees to be raffled off this year, four fewer than in 2019. The sponsors were wide ranging, from the Caribou VFW, Ignite Presque Isle and even Mapleton Oil. After a year on hiatus, excitement was in the air for the return of the festival.

“Everyone is so excited to be back,”  Desjardins said. “All year long we have been preparing for this. It’s great that people can enjoy being together again.”

At the end of the weekend, the winning tickets will be plucked from their buckets, and winners will be able to pick up their prizes. Paired with the holiday light parade, the festival of trees is another welcomed Aroostook County tradition that helps get residents into the holiday spirit. 

Tree winners have not yet been announced.

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.