November 19, 2008

Festival of Trees brings out artistry



The second-annual Festival of Trees lights up Sunday through Saturday, Nov. 29, at Champlain Centre mall in Plattsburgh, near the inside entrance of Gander Mountain. Trees will be given away by random drawing with tickets at $5 each. Winners can pick up their trees, shrink-wrapped to protect them, Sunday, Nov. 30, at the mall; delivery within a 20-mile radius is available for a small fee.

Proceeds benefit the Advocacy and Resource Center of Clinton County.

PLATTSBURGH — Gold lamé, pearl beads, velvet, feathers and lots of lace.

The ornaments on the Champlain Valley Quilters Guild of New York's Christmas tree are designed to capture the romance of the Victorian era; each is crafted by hand.

"We looked through magazines, old patterns" to find appropriate designs, said guild Community Outreach Committee Chairperson Sandy Thorton. "Some of them, we made up."

The guild's tree will be one of 39 adorned for the Advocacy and Resource Center of Clinton County's second-annual Festival of Trees at Champlain Centre mall in Plattsburgh from Nov. 23 through 29.

The event helps fund efforts to raise awareness by the ARC about developmental disabilities.

For $5 per ticket, admirers of the trees can enter a drawing for the one they like best; 39 winners will take home a tree each, decorations and all.

According to Brenda Garner, who handles ARC's public relations, making that choice won't be easy, with each tree adorned with creative and clever decorations that fit individual themes.

Last year, the tree named Most Traditional was submitted by Glens Falls National Bank.

"A wooden toy train ran right through the tree," Garner said.

Most Creative was the one by Clinton Community College's business office, which expressed its Adirondack theme with handmade birch-bark ornaments.

"Absolutely breathtaking," Garner said.

Cook and Gardener won the prize for Most Whimsical "with really fun old-fashioned-type ornaments."

And Adirondack Tack, Garner noted, "did an awesome one last year. It had a cowboy hat as a topper."

The event begins with 7 1/2-foot pre-lit artificial trees donated by Empire Blue Cross, which is the main sponsor this year.

"We come in at 9 o'clock Sunday morning and decorate the trees," Garner said, laughing. "It's total chaos."

The lights are flipped on at 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon, and donations will be accepted throughout the week for the random drawings.

Entrants include businesses, not-for-profits, civic groups — anyone who'd like to take part, Garner said.

In 2007, the Quilters Guild fancied up its tree with calico ornaments; members welcome the opportunity to show their artistry, Thorton said, and to help the ARC.

This year, the five-member group that meets at her house Monday nights put the Victorian ornaments together, about 75 in all. They crafted Christmas stockings in crazy-quilt style, adorned Christmas balls with ribbons and beads, sewed soft, stuffed doves, angels with crocheted skirts, all in traditional Victorian colors of burgundy, pink, cream and gold. They made a matching tree skirt as well and found wide gold ribbon to wind around the tree as garland.

Looking down from the guild's tree will be an angel fashioned from sheer pink ribbon holding a nosegay.

At a regular meeting of the entire guild, members put the finishing touches on each ornament.

So the trees can be moved without losing their decorations, each item has to be wired to its branch.

"That's what's going to take the time," Thorton said.

Among other themes expected this year are "Hoofin' it through the Holiday" by Adirondack Tack, "Christmas for the Birds" by Clinton Community, "Black and White and Red All Over" by the Press-Republican and "Don't Keep All Your Money in One Tree" by KeyBank.

Said Garner, "It's just a really fun event."

E-mail Suzanne Moore at: