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By Shannon Hicks



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By Shannon Hicks

A few weeks ago, Jill Beaudry was getting a little nervous. Mrs Beaudry is the chairman this year of the Festival of Trees, one of the events featured in the annual Newtown Holiday Festival, and at the onset of November there weren’t many groups or individuals who had committed to decorating a tree or wreath for this year’s festival.

Fortunately there are now over 25 groups who have promised to show up this weekend at Trinity Church with their decorated tree, wreath, basket or other decorative accessory for the Festival of Trees. The 14th annual Newtown Holiday Festival will be held Sunday, December 5, from 11 am to 5 pm, and the festival just wouldn’t have been the same without the tree event.

The silent auction is one more way the festival raises money for the Family Counseling Center, the one-day event’s beneficiary. It is also a fun presentation of the creative minds of Newtown, as miniature trees and other projects are displayed with themes that are as individual as those who create them.

“There seems to actually be a larger number of people participating than usual now,” Mrs Beaudry said recently. “It started a little slow, but there have been a lot of calls in the last few weeks, which has been really nice because we’ll be able to fill the space we’re in this year.”

The Festival of Trees event will move out of the library’s meeting room and into the undercroft of Trinity Church this year. In addition to the trees that will be in the silent auction, a group of 20 trees decorated by Boy and Girl Scout groups are being set up in a separate section for the Children’s Festival of Trees.

In the past, as Mrs Beaudry explained, children were invited to purchase three raffle tickets for $1, then place their tickets in a bag. At the end of the festival, a ticket was selected for each tree, and the trees would be given to the winners.

This year, instead of purchasing tickets, every child who visits Trinity Church will be given three tickets. They can still select the trees they would like to win, and place their tickets in a corresponding box or bag for each tree. But the children will not have to pay for their tickets this year.

In order to be able to offer the children’s event, 20 tree sponsors have been sought. Each tree costs $30 to sponsor, and anyone can sponsor a tree — groups, individuals or businesses. As of earlier this week, 15 of the children’s trees had sponsors.

Anyone who is interested in sponsoring a children’s tree should call Jill Beaudry as soon as possible. She can be reached at 426-9878. On Sunday, tags will be set up with each tree to announce which Boy or Girl Scout group created each tree along with the names of each tree’s sponsor. All sponsor money will go directly to Family Counseling Center.

All Done By Volunteers

In the main section of the Festival of Trees, everyone from business leaders to families is working on trees.

“A number of people who have done work in the past are actually doing a number of things this year,” Mrs Beaudry pointed out. “That’s extremely generous. For people to donate any of their time is such a huge help to the festival.” The entire festival is coordinated and presented by volunteers every year.

One of the first names that visitors to the Festival of Trees will recognize this year will be Colette Williams, a Newtown resident who has been donating trees and topiary for years. Mrs Williams is among those who have done a few trees this year.

“She’s extremely talented,” Mrs Beaudry said. “Her things always go pretty quickly, so we’re thrilled she’s working with the festival again.”

Mrs Williams is a sales agent for Curtiss & Crandon in Newtown. The real estate firm always donates money for a tree to be decorated by Mrs Williams. But she doesn’t stop there. The Main Street resident began working during the first week of October this year, creating the items she will be donating to the Festival of Trees on her own. For the first time this year, Mrs Williams will also be at the crafts show and sale, another Holiday Festival event, which is why she began working so early.

“I’ve done my traditional small tree with white lights and cardinals to donate on behalf of the office,” Mrs Williams said this week, surrounded in her apartment by beautiful creations. “That’s what I have done in the past and it’s always gone very well.

“I love doing this,” she continued. “I like that we’re all doing this to help others, and I like that Newtown as a whole gets so involved.”

Sandy Hook resident Shari Burton is another individual who has worked on a few trees this year. Mrs Burton has one tree that was done with a Victorian theme, in soft pinks and violets, that is a special memorial for her late stepfather, John Mesaric.

“I chose this theme because every year he always bought flowers for me, whether it was my birthday, or Christmas, or Easter,” Mrs Burton shared this week. “He always gave to everybody. Anyone who knew him will recognize that.”

Mrs Burton is the wife of one of the co-owners of Pootatuck Spirits in Newtown, so she also took care of preparing the tree being donated by the store. “The Spirits Tree” is gorgeous, with beads and curly ribbon playfully hiding small bottles of Godiva and Sambuca liqueurs within the tree’s branches. There are a number of fine chocolates attached to the tree, and small packages wrapped in fabric at the base of the tree hide envelopes and bags of flavored hot chocolates and coffees. A recipe book with after-dinner drink suggestions will also accompany the tree.

Finally, Mrs Burton has a daughter who is a member of Brownie Troop 127. As a troop, the girls are preparing a tree that will be laden with bath and body soaps and lotions. All three trees dominated the dining room of the Burton home this week.

Another young group working on their own tree this year is made up of the four daughters of the Haitz and Kopcik families in Sandy Hook. Jessica Haitz, age 5½, Michelle Haitz, 8½, Emily Kopcik, 5½, and Michelle Haitz, 8½, are working together on a tree they have named “The Angel Friends Tree.”

The girls have a tree that is covered with tiny gold beads, gold hearts and bows, and a white cloth angel for the top. The biggest part of the project, however, is the gold angels that are being hand-made by the four young friends. The girls are using gold-wrapped Hershey’s Kisses, gluing on wings made of tiny gold beads, and adding tiny heads with halos.

The agents at Newtown-based Key Realty worked as a team in creating its “Money Talks” tree. The office’s tree will be covered with dollar bills and lottery tickets, and the tree itself is a battery-operated singing tree.

“We hope that the money on the tree will entice people to bid higher,” Key Realty co-owner Sandy Jossick-Anderson said this week. She was helped in preparing the tree by her business partner, Susan Catino, and sales agents Connie Baglio, Tim Shanley and Debra Trillhaase.

Burr Farm Garden Center is one of the local garden centers participating this year.

“We enjoy doing things like this,” said Debbie Reilly, the manager at the Brookfield business. “We’ve made a fresh wreath right here. It has mixed greens including fir, some holly and holly berries, rose hips and a few gold pinecones. It’s not overly done, but it’s simple and quite pretty.

“We’ve participated in the festival before, sometimes with a wreath donation or helping with decorations for the tea room,” she added.

Newtown Florist has taken a beautiful boxwood tree and decorated it with permanent accents that include pinecones, mini pears and apples, and berries.

Organizations around town are also participating this year, including Newtown Junior Women’s Club, which has put together a centerpiece made from a rosemary bush in the shape of a tree. Pearl garland and seashell ornaments hang on the tree, and its topper is a miniature gold seahorse. A club tradition, it was the newest members of the club who worked on the tree this year.

“I don’t think any of us can ever eat rosemary again, because the smell was just overwhelming when we were working on it,” Lois Barber laughed. Mrs Barber coordinated the project, which included the efforts of members Amy Azzarito, Lissa Dickinson and Ivette Gerics. The group adapted an idea from an issue of Martha Stewart Living.

Town and Country Garden Club of Newtown will be creating something this year, too, said member Felicia Valus.

“We’re going to wait until just before the Festival to put together either a wreath or a basket,” Mrs Valus said last weekend. “Whichever we choose, it will have fresh greens, pine, holly, etc. We’re going to make something that can be used anywhere around the house. We’re waiting until Friday or so to put it together because we want it to last for whomever wins it.”

Newtown Newcomers is also participating again, with a change of plans this year.

“We have typically decorated a tree in the past,” Paula Toi, the club’s president, said this week. “But wreaths can be used in a variety of locations, so we’re going to try going with a wreath this year.

“Wreaths also seem to draw larger bids,” she continued, “which in turn goes directly to Family Counseling Center. That’s what we’re all in this for, after all — to help the counseling center.”

A few of the intended donations for the events have already been on view around town. Flagpole Realty’s project was finished last weekend, and the red and gold tree has been on display in the office’s front window at 33 Main Street since Monday morning. The large wreath with the red ribbon and apple motif on the front entry at Newtown Country Mill on Sugar Street is another donation the public has had the opportunity to admire all week.

Also donating this year is Elizabeth’s Tea Room, which traditionally offers a gift certificate for four for a Sunday brunch at the South Main Street establishment. Cedar Village Flower Shop of Monroe will be bringing a gold-tipped evergreen wreath, shop owner Gloria Smejkal said last week. The wreath, she continued, will be quite large, with white silk flowers tipped in gold, and decorative gold grapes throughout.

Contributors also include the Geoffrey Allison family, Cuts Plus Hair Salon, Mrs Dori Isgut, J.W. Floral & Antiques, Lexington Garden on behalf of Newtown Shopping Village, Longview Tree Farm, Newtown Newcomers’ Club, and Western CT Credit Union, all of Newtown; Hollandia Nursery and The Gift Cottage, both of Bethel; and Craft Basket of Brookfield.

Chairman Jill Beaudry is feeling more confident about the Festival of Trees as each day passes and Sunday’s event approaches. “It’s shaping up to be a lot of fun,” she promised.

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