Second annual Festival of Trees at Chemainus Gardens raises money for food bank

The Festival of Trees is open Dec. 6-28 and includes voting for the best-decorated Christmas tree, painting ceramics and storytelling.

Chemainus Gardens is gearing up for Christmas with its second annual Festival of Trees.

This year’s festival opens at 11 a.m. this Thursday (Dec. 6) and runs daily until Fri., Dec. 28, said Margaret Perry, the festival’s event co-ordinator.

Festival activities will take place indoors for the most part, Perry said, adding that the trees on display will be housed in the Chemainus Gardens pavilion.

The festival revolves around a Christmas tree decorating contest. Teams or individuals sponsor an artificial tree for a donation of $150 and decorate it in the run up to the festival’s grand opening. Trees will be judged prior to the festival’s opening gala by Cassidy’s Jacqui Kaese, whose charitable fundraising earned her a 2012 Volunteer of the Year Award from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Sponsors of the winning tree will receive a plaque at the grand opening when Kaese’s selection is made public.

Over the course of the festival, visitors are invited to cast a ballot, free of charge, for their favourite tree. The sponsored tree with the highest number of visitor votes come the night of Dec. 28 will receive a second plaque in recognition.

The festival will run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily with a variety of activities scheduled for visitors.

Festivalgoers are invited to craft ceramics between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Simon Warne from the Crafty Cuppa ceramics studio will bring in a selection of “Christmas relevant” ceramics. Visitors are welcome to paint the piece of their choice in exchange for a donation. Warne will fire each piece at his shop, making them available for pick up at the Crafty Cuppa shop downtown soon thereafter.

Between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., storytellers will visit the pavilion to entertain kids and adults alike with Christmas-themed stories.

“If you like telling stories,” Perry said, “you can pick a time on the schedule and you can come and sit in the chair and tell your story.”

In the evenings, Perry said carollers are welcome to stroll around the gardens “singing their little hearts out” beginning at 6 p.m.

Visitors are also welcome to bid, via a silent auction, on items donated by local businesses, Perry added.

On Saturdays and Sundays, Daphne and Art Carlyle, owners of Carlyle Portraits in Saltair, will attend the festival to provide their services to festivalgoers. Visitors can have their photos taken by the Carlyles for a donation.

The festival’s sponsoring a poetry contest, too, Perry said.

Students from Ladysmith, Chemainus and Crofton schools are welcome to submit their poetry for consideration in one of three age groups, Perry said. The deadline for submissions is Dec. 21, after which time a panel of published writers — whose names Perry kept secret — will judge the entries. Winners of the poetry and Christmas tree contests will be announced at the festival’s grand finale Dec. 28. Local musicians Donnalee Macluskie and Graham Gates will also be on hand to entertain guests.

All proceeds from the Festival of Trees will be donated to the Chemainus Harvest House Food Bank, Perry said.

Chemainus Gardens is located at 3042 River Road in Chemainus. The festival will run daily from Dec. 6-28, but will remain closed between Dec. 24 and 26. For more information on the Festival of Trees, calll 250-246-3569.