Cheryl Simpson trims the Grinch-themed Wel-Can Welding tree in her garage Thursday.

Cheryl Simpson trims the Grinch-themed Wel-Can Welding tree in her garage Thursday.

Decorators wrapping up designs for Festival of Trees launch

Tree designers with Red Deer’s Festival of Trees have been knee-deep in garland, sparkling lights and ornaments since September.

Tree designers with Red Deer’s Festival of Trees have been knee-deep in garland, sparkling lights and ornaments since September.

Later this week, they will wow visitors at the 18th annual festival held at Westerner Park, which is open to the public from Friday to Sunday.

There will be something for everyone coming out to gaze upon the festival’s centre pieces — 73 Christmas trees sponsored by businesses and organizations.

About half the trees are crafted into holiday beauties by sponsors and half by the festival’s tree designers and their helpers.

Cheryl Simpson, tree designer and a member of the festival’s decorating committee, said she’s always surprised by designers’ creativity.

“Turquoise, purple, lime green, and copper are colours we used a lot this year,” said Simpson, who has been decorating trees at the festival for 15 years.

“We’ve had a lot of woodland trees this year with pine cones, owls, birds, that kind of thing.”

Between the cost of the tree and decorations, finished trees are valued at $1,500 to $3,000.

One-third of trees are sold at public auction and the rest are sold at a silent auction at the sponsor’s preview dinner at the festival.

There are trees for every taste — old-fashioned trees with tried and true colours and ornaments, elegant trees with glitz, theme trees, and fun trees that bring out the child in everyone.

Simpson said there’s a sense of accomplishment and pride when the festival doors open.

“You’ve done something that is really going to help the hospital. There’s kind of relief too because it’s all come together and people are enjoying it.”

And watching the Westerner space transform with the help of hundreds of people is absolutely amazing, she said.

“It’s unbelievable how it metamorphosizes from a bare, empty room to a Christmas wonderland in three days.”

Take some advice from a tree designer when putting up the tree in your living room — let your imagination soar.

“It doesn’t mean you don’t put your old favourites on your tree. I still add things my kids gave me when they were growing up. They are all there. They’re just not in the traditional, old-fashioned tree anymore.”

Simpson said add a new colour.

Rethink the stars and angels for something unique.

This year, money raised by the festival goes towards upgrading equipment and technology for minimally invasive surgery at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre to increase surgery capacity.

Three custom-made doll houses with handmade furniture built by the late Helmut Lemke of Red Deer will be among the many items to be auctioned or raffled off at the festival.

Four new special events will also be introduced this year — Seniors Appreciation and Cirque du Noel on Thursday; Festival Business Lunch with speaker Don Bell, co-founder of WestJet, on Friday; and Breakfast with Santa on Sunday.

Other events include a preview dinner for sponsors only on Wednesday; Taste of Red Deer and Festival of Wines on Friday; and ’Tis the Season Fashion Luncheon and Mistletoe Magic on Saturday.

As of last week, tickets for Mistletoe Magic, Breakfast with Santa, Festival of Wines and ’Tis the Season Fashion Luncheon were sold out.

Other fun at the festival includes Christmas music and entertainment on the Event Room Stage and Festival Main Stage. Candy Cane Lane features games and activities for children. Santa’s Secret Shoppe will operate for children, along with the Festival Gift Shop.

The week’s activities start on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., with the Biggest Christmas Tree Festival and Parade at City Hall Park.

Festival of Trees admission is $6 each for adults, $3 for students and seniors, and $2 for children age four to 11.

Tickets for special events during the festival can be purchased online at www.ticketcentraloutlet.ca, toll-free at 1-855-347-0800, or at City Centre Stage, at 4922 49th St.

Last year, the festival raised $875,000 for cardiopulmonary care.

Go online at www.reddeerfestivaloftrees.ca for more information.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

— copyright Red Deer Advocate