New trivia night grows McGregor’s Festival of Trees into four-day event

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McGregor’s Festival of Trees has grown into a four-day event this year, starting with a new holiday trivia night at Old Man River Restaurant and Brewery on Nov. 30. The Dessert Among the Trees preview is Dec. 1 at Backwoods, followed by Dec. 2-3 tree viewing, entertainment, kids activities and more. (Times-Register file photo)

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register


McGregor’s annual Festival of Trees continues to grow, this year adding a holiday trivia night that now stretches the event from Wednesday, Nov. 30 through Saturday, Dec. 3.


Trivia will begin at 6 p.m. on Nov. 30, at Old Man River Restaurant and Brewery. Teams of around six (although that number is flexible) are invited to participate while enjoying a special dinner menu and locally brewed beers and other beverages.


Anne Kruse, one of over 15 volunteer committee members who helps organize Festival of Trees, is excited for the new addition.


“We talked with the owners of Old Man River and they wanted to expand our event to include more of the downtown. I think that’s a good thing to do,” she said, “so I was trying to think of an event we could use to incorporate their business into the festival at large. We can’t, obviously, move the trees over there, so I asked if they’d have a Christmas trivia event. They were very enthusiastic about it.”


Some holiday trivia questions will be a little harder, added Kruse, but not terribly challenging. 


“We think everybody will have a lot of fun with it,” she said.


Thursday, Dec. 1 is Dessert Among the Trees at the Backwoods Event Center. From 6 to 8 p.m., attendees can enjoy specialty desserts, beverages and holiday music while getting a sneak peak at the trees lovingly decorated by local businesses, organizations and individuals.


People are encouraged to purchase tickets ahead of time, to help organizers plan for the amount of dessert. Call (563) 873-1125 or visit McGregor City Hall, The Left Bank or McGregor Public Library to purchase. Tickets will also be available at the door.


The illuminated winter wonderland of decorated Christmas trees will open to the public at noon on Friday, Dec. 2. Visitors can vote for their favorites trees in one of two categories, mostly store bought or mostly hand made, until 8 p.m. that night and again Saturday, Dec. 3, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. The trees—many of which will also be sold via silent auction—will be on display in the Backwoods Event Center.


“We have had a lot of enthusiasm for trees this year. We’ve got 40 sold,” said Kruse. “We’re also going to have two memorial trees because we lost two members of our committee, Jean Peterson and Sheri Auten.”


A craft sale will be set up in the same room as the trees throughout the weekend, and attendees can also take advantage of a holiday photo op.


Friday night is highlighted by the popular Spirits of Christmas Pub Crawl. Enjoy delicious libations from five McGregor establishments—Steve’s Silver Dollar, Backwoods Bar and Grill, Jade’s River Queen, Pocket City Pub and Old Man River Restaurant and Brewery—from 4 to 8 p.m. 


Each participant can bring their completed “passport” to the Festival of Trees site to be entered into a drawing for a cash prize worth 20 percent of ticket sales. Another 40 percent of all ticket sales will go to the Festival of Trees chosen charities and 40 percent will be awarded to the establishment with the most popular drink chosen by voters.


“This year, we’re going to have two categories for voting: best drink as it concerns taste and then best presentation,” Kruse said.


Friday night will also include the first of a series of fun weekend entertainment, as Santa’s Combo takes the stage. 


“We’re happy to have them back with their jazzy Christmas music,” Kruse shared.


Entertainers on Saturday, Dec. 3 are the Star Power Dance Team at 1 p.m. and children from Dr. Smith Childcare at 4 p.m.


“This is the first year for the Dr. Smith daycare kids. Like Star Power, they are working on a special Christmas song,” Kruse said. “They are doing that, in part, for appreciation of the funds we have been sending their way from the festival. It helps them buy some extra things they can’t afford otherwise.”


That evening, listen to holiday music by Rick Thomas. 


“He does a lot of folk and soft rock, and he’s been working on Christmas music,” Kruse added. “He will fit in really well.”


In addition to tree viewing, entertainment and a holiday craft sale, Saturday events include a bake sale, then children’s activities in the afternoon. Kids can make gingerbread houses and other holiday crafts from 2 to 4 p.m., in the space between the Backwoods restaurant and event center. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be set up among the trees during that time, for Christmas wishes and photos.


The Festival of Trees also invites visitors to enjoy McGregor’s festive atmosphere outside the Backwoods Event Center. Nearby Triangle Park is lit up thanks to the city of McGregor, and garland festoons the railings in front of downtown buildings.


“The garland on the rails has really grown. We’re going all the way up the next block now,” said Kruse. “That’s another way we’re drawing in the rest of the downtown too. It’s good to see other businesses participating up and down the street.”


Festival of Trees is sponsored by The Left Bank Shop and Gallery, McGregor Historical Museum and Clan McGregor for Community Enrichment. Committee members have been meeting every other week since August, then weekly throughout November, to prepare.


Kruse is proud of how Festival of Trees has grown into one of the community’s marquee events. Now in its 13th year, it started in the original art center building next to the library, which was destroyed in the 2017 tornado. Reva Smock was the organizer, with around six to eight trees, kids crafts and treats.


“Then we moved it here to the Backwoods. There was a lot more room and it could really grow,” Kruse said. “Now, it’s something I think people really look forward to.” 


Festival of Trees has also grown its economic impact. The event not only draws people to McGregor and its businesses, but the trees are purchased from the Prairie du Chien Fire Department, which uses tree sales as a fundraiser.


Proceeds from the trees sold via silent auction are, in turn, donated to local charities. This year, that includes Dr. Smith Childcare, the McGregor Historical Society and the McGregor-Marquette Center for the Arts children’s art classes.


“We like getting as much support spread in our communities as possible,” Kruse said.

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