EXETER - The Festival of Trees (FOT) is now in its 15th year! What originally began with only 15 decorated Christmas trees displayed in the Exeter Town Hall in 1998, has now grown to 52.
Although, new businesses and organizations have stepped forward to sponsor trees every year, the ongoing loyalty of some of the decorators has stayed incredibly consistent. Not only do they sponsor a tree, they purchase all of the ornaments and volunteer their time on the day before the event.
Wendy Monroe, Director of Great Bay Kids’ Company, involved since the very beginning, recently said, “We became involved in order to give back to an organization that has helped provide warm winter clothing and bedding to many of our own clients. The parents and children love to visit their tree and look for the ornaments that they made.”
Each tree is unique and imaginative, and there are always a wide variety of holiday styles represented. Laura Hartman, owner of “La Cave a Vin” in Exeter, spends the year looking for ornaments that correspond with her theme. “My favorite tree was after a visit to New Orleans. I decorated it with Mardi Gras masks and colorful ornaments that I found while in the city,” she says. “Another year my tree had a wine theme to coordinate with my business. I used grapes and wine bottle ornaments that I found in Napa and Sonoma.”
The FOT event raises funds in a variety of ways: decorator registration fees, the silent auction of the trimmed trees, the “Gift Certificate Tree” raffle, donations collected at the door, underwriters, sponsors and Cookie Room sales. Proceeds from the FOT are donated to the Exeter Chamber (of Commerce) Children’s Fund which provides warm winter clothing to local families in need.
A sense of community, ability to provide support to seacoast families, and a day of fun are just some of the reasons so many people get involved and have made this a highly anticipated holiday tradition. This year’s event will be held on Thurs., December 5, 11:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m., at the Exeter Town Hall. Admission is free.