Red Deer’s Festival of Trees is continually evolving.
But one constant is its success.
Once again, organizers have a good feeling about this year’s festival, which wrapped up on Sunday afternoon after drawing big crowds.
“It’s gone exceptionally well,” said co-chair Tyler Bowman of the 18th edition of the popular fundraiser for the Red Deer Regional Health Foundation.
“We made a lot of changes this year. We were wondering how they would work out and all of them have gone really well.
“Our attendance has been high and we’ve had perfect weather.”
Among the new events this year was Cirque du Noel, which took place on Thursday evening at the Westerner Park venue. It was billed as an evening of entertainment and mayhem in a circus-type atmosphere and it drew a big crowd of about 450 people.
Fire eaters, contortionists, jugglers and acrobats entertained under the direction of a ring master. Food tables were set up around the room were people could sample exotic foods such as alligator meat.
A business lunch on Friday with guest speaker Don Bell, co-founder of WestJet, drew a similar-sized audience and was considered a big success. Other new events included Breakfast with Santa on Sunday and a Seniors Appreciation event on Thursday.
While it will be a while before final attendance is known, it looks like numbers are up. Fundraising totals won’t be tallied until mid-December but organizers hope to top last year’s $875,000.
Chrissy Prediger, of Rocky Mountain House, took in the festival with her three daughters and was all smiles. “I love it. The kids love it. We come every year. It gets you in the Christmas spirit.”
Daughter Blair said, “I like the pretty trees.”
She was stumped though when asked to pick a favourite. “I like them all.”
Mom though had one in mind. “I’m liking the Grinch Who Stole Christmas tree,” she said with a laugh.
Roberta Titford had two daughters in tow as she took a spin around the display of 73 Christmas trees up for auction.
“We like everything about it so far,” said Titford, who was seeing the festival for the first time and also travelled from Rocky. Her daughters, aged two and four, were enjoying the experience. Two-year-old Devyn seemed particularly enthralled by the trees. “Any tree with purple on it she loves,” said her mother.
Diana Balkwill has been volunteering for more than a decade and was back this year to co-chair the volunteer committee.
“It really gets you in the Christmas mood,” said Balkwill, who was helping oversee 2,000 volunteers this year. “It starts off the season and it’s a great cause.”
The volunteers have been wonderful this year, she said, adding many first-timers have already pledged to donate their time next year.
“It’s been going great. We’ve had good crowds Friday and Saturday and the events have gone over great.”
This year’s festival is raising money to upgrade equipment and technology for minimally invasive surgery at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.
— copyright Red Deer Advocate