During the holiday season in Lewis County, there are just some things that have become the norm. Not to be missed among them is Providence Centralia Hospital’s 24th annual Festival of Trees.
This six-day event, themed “Christmas Dreams,” will be held at the Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound from Nov. 19 to 24.
Festival of Trees has aspects suited to the interests of just about everyone. The gala event holds interest for those who’d like to get all fancied up for a classy night on the town, while family night is all about the arts, crafts and kids games.
There have been a few changes made this year as the event nears the quarter-century mark.
“Parents should bring their own cameras for pictures with Santa,” said Linda DiRienzo, who’s been with the Providence Centralia Hospital Foundation for nine years.
Another new aspect to this event is that it will also be open on Thanksgiving night from 4 to 8 p.m.
“We thought it would be a fun thing to do after Thanksgiving dinner, to kind of kick off the holiday season,” said DiRienzo. “This is an event where the Lewis County community really coalesces and supports the community. It’s really become a tradition. It’s a wonderful kick off for the children especially, almost magical.”
This year’s event is in honor of Sister Barbara Schamber, to help commemorate her 50th jubilee.
For Friday’s events (Senior Day and Community Night), there will be a plethora of musical entertainment, including Bill Hallot & Friends and Just Cuz.
Alongside the new aspects of the Festival of trees are some traditional members of the events line up: Santa and Mrs. Pockets, to name just a few.
Every year, the Centralia Providence Foundation picks one item as the focus of fundraising. This year they’ve chosen diagnostic imaging radiology monitors, a high-tech investment totalling about $70,000. The goal is to raise $100,000 to provide for other hospital needs as well.
“What really drew me here was the mission of the hospital to provide for the needy. It’s what keeps me here,” said DiRienzo.
What people don’t realize, however, is just how much time, effort, and manpower is needed to successfully run an event of this magnitude. But none of it would be possible without the extensive help of volunteers.
“It’s like a week-long wedding; it’s that big of an event,” said DiRienzo. “It takes a lot of work to put this on, and we couldn’t do that without the volunteers.”
Over 10 days the festival uses almost 200 volunteers, she said.
“It’s just incredible to see the community come together to put this on,” she said.
One of the biggest parts of the Festival of Trees is, of course, the trees themselves. Designers volunteer to create these masterpieces, which are then auctioned off at the events.
Susan Stayton, a longtime tree decorator for the event, is designing and hand-making two trees for this years event, including about 90 per cent of all the ornaments. Stayton and her family have logged roughly four months of total time working on these trees.
“If it wasn’t so much fun, I wouldn’t do it,” said Stayton. “It just kind of evolved more and more each year. I just think it’s such a great cause.”
Stayton is no stranger to crafty projects, though. She used to own a craft shop in Everett, before the family moved to Centralia 14 years ago.