Denise Tacon

Denise Tacon

Volunteers deck the halls during Festival of Trees

NANAIMO –Festival of Trees contestants challenged to scavenge, create or buy ornaments for VIU Foundation fundraiser.

Festival of Trees entrants are challenged to scavenge, create or buy ornaments to hang on their Christmas trees for the 19th annual Festival of Trees.

The halls are decked and decorations hung in the Vancouver Island Conference Centre where at 34 community groups have committed their  talents to create a forested Christmas wonderland for display and auction.

The Festival of Trees is Vancouver Island University Foundation’s premier annual fundraiser to supply learning spaces and financial support for VIU students.

“I’ve asked them to scavenge, create or buy ornaments for the trees,” said Sarah Lane, event consultant. “We’re expecting the trees to be quite nice, but we’re also expecting the people to put a little effort into it and we need people to understand they don’t need to spend a whole bunch of money.”

Teams decorated the trees Saturday in anticipation of them being unveiled at the light up cocktail reception Thursday (Nov. 21) at 6 p.m. Tickets are $30.

Family Viewing Days happen Friday to Sunday (Nov.  22-24) when visitors to vote for their favourite trees.

“On the 25th (Monday) we count all the tickets and then we announce the winner on the 26th (Tuesday),” Lane said.

The winning tree’s team receives two tickets to the Festival of Trees Gala at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre Nov. 29 where they’re presented with the People’s Choice Award.

Over the weekend the festival is hosting Island Savings Family Days Crafts and Festivities 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with Christmas entertainment, decoration making, treats and entertainment from the VIU Jazz Band and a dancing Christmas tree. Families can also have their photos snapped with Santa.

Visitors can also enter raffles for a chance to win their favourite tree. Trees are delivered to the winners at the end of the festival.

“On the 30th I get to come in and open all the boxes, call the winners and literally deliver all the trees into the community,” Lane said. “That’s my favourite duty.”

New to the festival this year is the Festival of Trees Late Night Viewing event Nov. 27, 5-8 p.m., when everyone will have the only opportunity during the festival to see the trees lit up at night.

The festival wraps up with the Festival of Trees Gala, a black tie formal affair, organized by the VIU culinary arts and hospitality management students working with conference centre staff, featuring a gourmet dinner, live and silent auctions and music to kick off the Christmas season.

Admission is $195 per ticket.

Seating is limited to 400 and tickets are still available.

The Festival is also looking for additional prize donations for the gala’s silent auction.

More than 4,000 people visited the 2012 festival display during the event which raised $115,000 to help VIU students and improve learning facilities.

For more information, please visit the festival website at www.viu.ca/festival/.