Josey Forbes’ face beamed when she saw cat decorations covering one of the trees.
At that moment, that tree was the 10-year-old girl’s favourite as she visited the Festival of Trees on Dec. 2.
“I really like how all the different places come together and make trees for the community to look at,” said Josey. “It shows people they care, and you can see the effort they put into the trees.”
Normally, Josey would’ve visited the festival with her classmates, but under the teacher’s union’s work-to-rule that was announced, she wasn’t sure if that would’ve happened. So, she and her family visited the Fraser Cultural Centre to take a look.
“For me, it’s seeing the representation of the different groups in the community putting something together,” said Trina Josey, who was there with Josey and her seven-year-old brother, Guard. “This is only my second time visiting the Festival of Trees. We aren’t decorated at home yet, but it’s good inspiration.”
It was back in 1984 when the festival started, under the direction of Anna Hamilton, one of the centre’s board members. She was known for her tatting and straw ornaments, and it’s the Anna Hamilton tree every year that has become the favourite of many, including Alison Hayman, one of the current organizers.
The festival, says Hayman, always signifies the beginning of Christmas, especially seeing Hamilton’s own decorations on the tree.
“I just can’t even imagine the village not having (the festival),” she said. “It’s seeing all the community coming together. Everyone is so happy. As stressed as we (organizers) are, it’s just so fun and it’s always three weeks before Christmas.”
While this was her second year being fully involved in the organization, the Festival of Trees has been an important part of Hayman’s life.
“I’ve decorated trees off and on – there’s probably about 10 years of doing trees.”
Hayman has often decorated trees in memory of her sister, but she hasn’t been able to decorate in her honour for a couple of years.
“Everyone cried at it,” she admitted. “After that, I said to my younger sister that I can’t do it again.”
And while some years it’s emotional, Hayman said it truly brings the community together.
“It’s such a diverse group of different people… people who wouldn’t normally mingle together. You feel like you’re part of the family and you just bond with everyone.
“You hear stories of people’s Christmases past and their trees. The festival brings back memories for a lot of people.”
One memory Hayman had while giving a tour of the centre was of her grandmother, thanks to flashing lights on one tree, which her grandmother had when Hayman was a child.
For many, it’s the ‘wish’ tree that becomes a favourite, including Linda Rees. Visitors to the centre are able to write a wish on a piece of paper before hanging it on the tree. Some wish for horses or love, others wish to see beloved pets long since passed.
“I love walking down through the village,” said Rees, just after writing her wish. “Everyone is in a good mood.”
Grace Lockerby loves to hear the stories people tell when they see the decorated trees, and said they were all decorated beautifully.
“This is sort of what starts it…Christmas, and I look forward to the festival every year. (The organizers) have outdone themselves this year,” she said.