24th annual Festival of Trees adds new features

By Lindsay DucharmeFoT_032

For the past 24 years the Northern Light Health Foundation has been hosting the Festival of Trees as their annual winter fundraiser.  What began as an auction and tree display has grown to include a gala, breakfast, luncheon, family night and much more.  The event has grown so much over the years that it can no longer be contained in a single weekend, this year for the first time the festival will take place over four days, November 14th-17th.

“We’ve increased the event this year and we have a new event, the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party on November 14th.  There will also be new attractions and activities in Santa’s Workshop,” explained Jessica Musycsyn Northern Light Health Foundation events manager.

“We’ve geared the event so that there is something for everyone to enjoy, whether you are old or young, single or FoT_146with a family.  The Thursday night event, the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party is kind of geared towards the average demographic in Fort McMurray. We have the East coast band Signal Hill and the Sentimental Gentlemen who will be opening up the night.  It’s going to be people wearing their ugly Christmas sweaters and there’s going to be a photo booth, a bar, food service.  It’s an 18 plus event,” she described.

The third annual ladies luncheon will take place on November 15th.  This year’s event will feature Grand Prairie’s own Turbine fashion designer Lisa Drader-Murphy as keynote speaker.  She will also being hosting a trunk show of her collection and those in attendance will have the opportunity to purchase her designs.  In addition the event will include a fashion show with local businesses and a silent auctions boasting luxurious prizes aptly suited for the female audience.FoT_050

Friday night will once again be devoted to families with the opening of Santa’s Workshop and family skating on 2 ice rinks.  Participation on family night is by donation.

Saturday will feature a full day of Santa’s workshop including cookie decorating, crafts, pictures with Santa and shopping booths.  Come evening, glamour will take center stage with the highly anticipated “Meet Me Under the Mistletoe” Gala.

The festival will come to a close on Sunday and go out with a bang with Santa’s annual pancake breakfast.

“There’s really something for everybody and it’s really the kickoff for the holiday season here in Fort McMurray.  People start to think about Christmas and get excited and it’s fresh because it’s the first big Christmas event in the community.  It’s a good way to start celebrating and bringing your friends and family together and spending a day having fun, doing something different that you can’t necessarily do somewhere else,” she said.FoT_524

In addition to all the special events, the highlight of the festival will remain the trees themselves.  Throughout the festival those in attendance will have the opportunity to marvel at the beauty, extravagance and creativity of trees decorated and donated by local businesses to benefit the Foundation.  Past trees have included those decorated in jewelry, tools and travel vouchers.

“I’m getting some awesome themes.  I think everybody is going to be really impressed. I think all the companies are taking an extra effort to step things up this year, because a lot of the companies that put in a tree do it every year and so they really try to top not only what they did last year, but also what everybody else is doing,”Musycsyn promised.

“You have to come and see it for yourself because they are really fun and impressive.  It gives you some good ideas for decorating your own house.”FoT_377

Those attending the gala will have the opportunity to bid on the magnificent trees.  Attending the gala is not necessary, however, to bid on the numerous silent auction items up available throughout the festival.

All funds raised during the Festival of Trees will go directly to the Northern Lights Health Foundation. Musycsyn explained that in not assigning the funds to a particular department or program allows the foundation to best serve the health needs of the community.

“Often if we get a big donation to the health foundation it might be directed at the pediatrics or maternity ward but raising the money through our events it’s free to be used in any area that there is a real need identified that people may not realize is important to have, it might make the difference of a family having to travel to Edmonton for an appointment.”FoT_184

Musycsyn encouraged all residents, whether or not they have attended the event in the past to check out this year’s festival.  “It’s going to be different this year because we added some more attractions, new fresh ideas to the overall festival.  It’s really nice to have an opportunity to come together with your community and celebrate together and have fun.  It’s going to be awesome.  If you have kids you can bring them to Santa’s Workshop and then come back in the evening with your husband to have fun at the Christmas Sweater Party, it’s a good way to mingle, network and enjoy something new.”

All events during the festival will take place at MacDonald Island Park. Tickets for all special events are on sale now and can be purchased online at www.nlhf.ca.