Festival of Trees spreads holiday cheer, helps hospice

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comNovember 26, 2012 

Roberta Williams of the MCAS Beaufort Federal Credit Union touches up the decorations on the Christmas tree donated by the credit union during the opening reception of last year's Festival of Trees. A total of 97 trees were displayed at the festival, which benefits Friends of Caroline Hospice. This year's festival is Dec. 3-8.

JAY KARR — File/The Beaufort Gazette

  • The Festival of Trees is Friends of Caroline Hospice's largest fundraiser. This year, it is Dec. 3-8 at the Charles Lind Brown Activity Center, 1001 Hamar St., Beaufort.

Thanks to the Friends of Caroline Hospice staff for sharing the background on Beaufort's Festival of Trees, which will mark its 25th anniversary next week.

'MANY HANDS'

By Friends of Caroline Hospice

Thousands of volunteer hours have been invested in planning, organizing and producing the Festival of Trees, which has raised more than $950,000 for Friends of Caroline Hospice since it began in 1987.

Started by Veronica Tovey, the first festival had eight trees, raised $10,000 and was hosted at the University of South Carolina Beaufort's art gallery. For the next 10 years, the festival was held at the National Guard Armory by the Beaufort National Cemetery, and since 2001 has been housed at the Charles Lind Brown Activity Center at 1001 Hamar St.

The number of trees at the event has risen to almost 100 each year and the event raises, on average, $85,000 annually.

Each year, individuals, organizations, businesses and even schools and universities have sponsored and creatively decorated the trees in classic, modern, traditional or whimsical styles. The trees are judged on decorations and themes, not on their size or shape. At the end of the festival, the trees are offered for sale.

Norma Duncan, who has worked with the festival for 21 years, said, "We have seen more than 2,000 trees since we started this endeavor, and each year is more than spectacular than the last. The effort and thought infused into each tree is remarkable. It certainly makes it hard for the judges."

When asked to name one of her favorites, she said, "Probably the Beaufort Art Association's 'Best of Beaufort,' which was decorated with dozens of miniature landscapes of Beaufort, all done by different artists in the association. It was auctioned off for $450."

Grace Larson, a teacher at Lady's Island Middle School for the past 24 years, had her students decorate a tree one year with all recycled materials. She and her students placed old paper, colored tissue (to add color), sparkle and glitter, plus a little glue (to act as an emulsion) into a blender with water. They then pressed the "recycled" mixture into different festive soap molds and let them harden. The result was a tree dancing with small cherubs, stars and other ornaments, happy they had escaped the landfill.

"My kids had so much fun and learned an important lesson in being 'green,' but the crowning moment was when we won Best in Category," she said.

Sally Mitchell, who has been an integral planner with the festival for years, said, "The most touching tree was the year that a young girl dedicated all the decorations on a tree to her mother, who had died. It was called 'A Mother's Love' and really touched the hearts of all who passed through the hall."

And, of course, there are the whimsical and fanciful.

Last year's Best in Show winner was "Please Pass the Sugar," sponsored by Fran Cobb. The tree was set up in the middle of a round table, and the table was set for a tea party, with the tree decorated like a sugar plum fairy dance.

Whatever the theme, cause or dedication, tree sponsorship is a vital component to the success of the Festival of Trees. It's not too late to sponsor and decorate a tree -- sponsor a tree in memory of a loved one, dedicate a tree to a dear friend, donate a tree for your business or even contribute a collegiate or club tree. It's for a great cause. The cost is $225 to sponsor a tree and $60 to decorate a tree -- but the fun comes in decorating the tree. Call Vicki Verity at 843-263-4108 to order a tree.

The Festival of Trees is Friends of Caroline Hospice's largest fundraiser and will be held this year Dec. 3-8 at the Charles Lind Brown Activity Center.

This year, the festival is celebrating 25 years of raising money for Friends of Caroline Hospice. This fundraiser not only raises much-needed money, but also builds public awareness and community support for a great organization.

By sponsoring a tree, you become an integral member of a team that provides home care and volunteer services that offer hope, encouragement and care to those who live with life-threatening illnesses, as well as support for their families, friends and the community.

For information, contact Sharon Dwyer at 843-271-1595 or go to the festival website at www.festivaloftreesbeaufort.org.

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Email David Lauderdale at dlauderdale@islandpacket.com.

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