With the passing of Halloween and the beginning of November, Waterville has officially begun its celebrations for the upcoming Christmas season.
One of the main attractions of Waterville’s holiday season is the Festival of Trees. This festival is a beloved annual event and is fast approaching. It is scheduled to take place over the last two weekends in November.
The Festival of Trees is a nationwide event, with many states hosting similar events. From Salt Lake City, Utah to Waterville, Maine, the Festival of Trees spreads holiday cheer and community bonding throughout the country.
The Festival will take place at The Elm in downtown Waterville and also serve as a fundraiser for the Alfond Youth and Community Center. This center is a result of a collaboration between the former Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA of Waterville. Harold Alfond proposed this merger to better serve the needs of everyone in the community. Ever since the completion of the merger in 1999, the Alfond Youth and Community Center has been a community and after-school program powerhouse.
The center provides bus services from Oakland, Waterville, Winslow, and Fairfield to their after-school programs, filling a need for families that struggle with childcare costs. Their website states, “We give over 200 children a day a supportive place to go after school, a nutritious hot meal, help with homework, and the opportunity to participate in various activities from which they learn the social skills needed to excel in life.”
The center provides not only activities for children but also has robust programming for adults with state-of-the-art exercise equipment, greenhouses with organic crops, and even a two-thirds-scale replica of Fenway Park.
The festival will showcase several Christmas trees uniquely decorated with ornaments, gifts, and other spectacles donated by local businesses. Many of these businesses decorate their trees with gift cards and coupons. Most trees have a specific theme, such as the “Family Fun Night” themed tree sponsored by Hammond Lumber in 2017, with puzzles, DVDs, and snacks under it.
The trees do not have to be actual greenery either. The same year, Hammond Lumber donated a second tree as part of their “Paint 3 Rooms” gift package. This tree was fully constructed from paint cans stacked in a pine tree shape and came with a free paint consultation and a $500 gift card for the lucky winner.
This year, visitors to the festival will have the opportunity to purchase ten raffle tickets for $5 for a chance to win a featured tree or gift. In past years, over $75,000 worth of prizes has been available for raffle.
More than sixty local businesses and organizations in the greater Waterville area, including Bar Harbor Bank and Trust, Fish Tails Pet Emporium, and United Bikers of Maine, have donated resources to decorate and sponsor different trees.
The Festival serves as a way for the Waterville community to unite in the spirit of the holidays while supporting local organizations. The Alfond Youth and Community Center website invited visitors to “come wander through the holiday tree displays, enjoy the break from the hustle and bustle that the holidays bring. Savor the community camaraderie and the festive joys that the season brings.”
The Festival of Trees is powered by the support of the community. Largely run by volunteers, the festival organizers have been reaching out to local businesses and communities for group volunteering opportunities. With over 400 volunteering slots available, the festival is eager for more people to sign up, whether they’re part of a group or an individual.
Most slots are three hours long and are easily accessible through a SignUpGenius form, and you can sign up for as few or as many slots as you would like. The volunteers are separated into different groups based on tasks: ticketing, admissions, or a 50/50 responsibility for both.
If you’re looking for a way to engage with the community or just revel in holiday cheer, the Festival of Trees is the perfect place.
~ Vivian Nguyen `25
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