Festival of Trees sets the holiday mood

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Let the fifth annual Festival of Trees get you in the holiday spirit. Held Friday and Saturday, Dec. 4 and 5, at the McGregor’s Landing Event Center, the event offers dozens of colorfully-decorated trees, holiday music, food and crafts, all for a good cause. (NIT file photos)

One activity kids can enjoy at the Festival of Trees is gingerbread house-making.

“There’s a lot of music this year,” noted Festival of Trees committee member Rogeta Halvorson. Featured performers include Santa’s Combo, The Ruckus Band, Victorian Carolers, Diane’s Aunts, a barbershop quartet and MFL MarMac fourth graders. Attendees can also take part in “carol-aoke,” a Christmas carol version of karaoke.

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Let the fifth annual Festival of Trees get you in the holiday spirit. Held Friday and Saturday, Dec. 4 and 5, at the McGregor’s Landing Event Center, the event offers dozens of colorfully-decorated trees, holiday music, food and crafts, all for a good cause.

Festivities kick off Friday, at 3 p.m., when attendees can begin viewing trees. A half-dozen vendor booths will be set up offering crafts and other gifts, as well. 

Fifty trees will be on display throughout the weekend, all lovingly decorated by individuals, businesses and organizations from area communities. Many are like works of art, noted Rogeta Halvorson, a Festival of Trees committee member.

“We have many talented and creative people in town,” she said. 

Festival-goers can vote for their favorite tree, and also make bids to take a tree home, until 8 p.m. Friday evening and throughout the day Saturday. 

Proceeds from the sponsorship of the trees, along with money raised through the silent auction, will go toward two local causes, one of which is the MFL MarMac Snack Pack Program, which gives “snack packs” of food to students in need over the weekends. The other half of the funds will go toward the purchase of materials for the veterans memorial a local Boy Scout is creating for his Eagle Scout project in McGregor’s Cannon Park.

Also beginning at 3 p.m. on Friday, people can show off their best ugly sweaters. Halvorson said those who would like to participate can have their photo taken at the registration table at the event center. It will then be hung up, with people voting for their favorite throughout the night. The winner will be announced around 7:45 p.m.

Back for the third year, from 4 to 8 p.m., will be the “Spirits of Christmas” pub crawl. For a small fee, participants can get a ballot and sample a holiday-themed drink at each McGregor bar—Pocket City Pub, The Riverview Inn, Josie’s River Queen, Crazy Carl’s Silver Dollar Saloon and Latino’s. After sampling the drinks, vote for your favorite. Fifty percent of the proceeds will go to the bar owner of the winning drink and the other half to the Festival of Trees causes.

The event center will also offer several activities that evening, from 6 to 8 p.m. Santa’s Combo will perform, as will the local Victorian Carolers group. Those in attendance can also participate in “carol-aoke,” a Christmas carol version of karaoke.

In addition, Friday evening features the “Taste of McGregor.” Open to local businesses in the past, the event is now open to the public. Halvorson said people are encouraged to submit their best Christmas bars or brownies into the contest, the winner of which will be decided by the public.

“Don’t just make a pan of brownies,” Halvorson said. “Decorate them for Christmas.”

Those who would like to participate should contact Halvorson at (563) 880-9190 no later than Wednesday, Dec. 2. Enough treats should be made for 100 people to sample.

“We will provide a plate and people can go down the line and do tasting,” Halvorson explained. “Then, they’ll rate them and we’ll announce the winner that night.”

Saturday will be a busy day, beginning at 9 a.m. with the McGregor Clan Lions Club bake sale as well as singing and piano playing from Diane’s Aunts. 

Starting at 11 a.m., the event center will be open for tree viewing. The craft vendors will also have their wares on display. 

From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., MFL MarMac seniors and their parents will hold a soup luncheon fundraiser for MFL MarMac Dollars for Scholars. Three types of soup will be available along with ham sandwiches, fruit cups, dessert and a beverage. 

Kids will be able to take part in gingerbread house-making at 1 p.m.

“There’s a lot of live music this year,” Halvorson noted, referencing the continuation of Christmas tunes Saturday evening. 

From 4 to 4:45 p.m., MFL MarMac fourth graders will sing carols. They will also sing later in the evening with the Ruckus Band, which will perform from 6 to 8 p.m. From 4:45 to 5:30 p.m., the Victorian Carolers will perform, followed by the Barbershop Quartet from Elkader from 5:30 to 6 p.m. Attendees can also once again participate in “carol-aoke.”

With over 400 attendees at last year’s Festival of Trees, Halvorson said she expects the event to grow even more this year. 

“[Festival of Trees] started at the McGregor-Marquette Center for the Arts, which couldn’t hold 40 trees,” Halvorson said. “Now, we’re up to 50. I’m proud of that because it means we’ve had the support of the community.”

Halvorson said she’s also proud of the volunteers from the McGregor Clan Lions Club, McGregor-Marquette Center for the Arts, McGregor Historical Museum and throughout the community who have helped organize the event over the years. She said more volunteers are always welcome to help with this year’s Festival of Trees as well as future events.

“It’s a lot of work but a lot of fun,” she said. “You get into the quaintness and the spirit, the smells, tastes, sights and sounds. It just makes you happy, seeing the community, friends and family. Christmas will be here before you know it, and Festival of Trees gets you into the spirit.”

For more information about Festival of Trees and all its activities, see the “Festival of Trees—McGregor, Iowa” Facebook page.

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