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Festival spreads Christmas cheer

Westerner Park was the epicentre of Christmas cheer this weekend.

The 19th edition of the Festival of Trees was once again a glittering, tinsel-draped success.

Red Deer’s Jocelyn Melbourne was there with three-year-old daughter Sydnie, who was all eyes for the dozens of imaginatively decorated trees that were to be raffled off in a silent auction.

“I like the purple ones,” said Sydnie.

This was the second visit to the festival for the Melbournes and the first where Sydnie was old enough to appreciate the Christmas magic around her.

“We haven’t made it to Candy Cane Lane yet,” said Jocelyn, “because I don’t think we’ll get out once we get in there.”

Melbourne said she loves to decorate her tree each year and enjoyed looking at other decorators’ creations.

“I like to see other people’s ideas. There are so many (trees) I really love.”

Heather Hawkins brought along sons Allan, 6, and Nathan, 4.

“It’s great family time,” the Lacombe resident said of the event that wrapped up on Sunday.

“It gets us into the Christmas spirit and the boys love the Candy Cane Lane.

“I hope we win the playhouse. It’s massive,” she said with a laugh. The $15,000 playhouse was among the auction items and it had the stamp of approval from no less a personality than Canada’s most trusted contractor, Mike Holmes.

“We’re having a lot of fun,” said Amanda Parsons, of Red Deer. “The photo booth was a lot of fun.”

Husband Michael, and their children Evelyn, 7, and Nathan, 4, and mother-in-law Anna Parsons were also along and were taking in the tree displays.

“All the trees are very interesting and different,” she said. “Even for the kids, they saw these Angry Birds one and they thought that was pretty cool,” she said of one tree decorated with the characters from the ubiquitous cellphone game.

At the Balderson Creations booth, festival-goers could sample delicious ciders from Judy Balderson and daughter Kelly Hagel. A portion of their proceeds go towards the hospital foundation.

“In all honesty, this is one way we can contribute,” said Balderson, who is from Red Deer.

This year’s festival has been excellent, she said. “People are here and they are having a very good time.

Balderson said she can’t quite put her finger on the reason why, but this year’s festival has its own character.

“I love creativity, this just fits the bill.”

Jacqueline Brooks, executive director of the Red Deer Regional Health Foundation, said the event went very well, although it was too early to say if they had reached their goal of topping last year’s $1,020,000 tally.

“I think all of the changes we made were well received by the public,” said Brooks on Sunday.

Moving the ever-popular Candy Cane Lane to its own area was one of the tweaks this year that went over well. “It just created a very calm, peaceful atmosphere in the tree room.”

Brooks said the money raised will go towards upgrading the equipment and technology for Laboratory Services in the Department of Histopathology.

The lab tests tissue samples for disease for Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre and rural hospitals in the region.

“The end result is you’re not just supporting Red Deer hospital, you’re supporting 22 rural areas outside of Red Deer itself,” she said.

The event would not be possible without more than 2,500 volunteers and she thanks them and all who visited the festival.



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