WESTBROOK — When it comes to beloved traditions, some things are better left as they are.
With the Festival of Trees, which is now in its 17th year, little has changed since its inception. According to the event coordinators, that’s the way visitors like it.
“I think at Christmas, tradition means a lot to people,” festival coordinator Cheryl Leighton said.
The annual event will take place this year December 2-9. It is hosted by and held at the Westbrook-Warren Congregational Church at 810 Main St. Leighton said an average of 1,000 people come through every year to see the decorated Christmas trees.
For many families in Westbrook and surrounding towns, visiting the festival has become a part of their holiday routine.
“It’s a tradition,” Leighton said. “We see the same families year after year.”
This year’s festival will feature 46 artificial trees, down one from last year. Overall, though, the number of trees has grown from when the festival was first created, which Leighton said is the only real change that’s occurred. Over the years other things have been added as well, such as be a Christmas village display, creche room and Paul Corbett’s model train display.
Each tree is sponsored by a local business, organization, or person with the donation being $100 per tree. The sponsor can decorate the tree or offer it to a local nonprofit or school group to decorate.
Leighton said there are three new sponsors this year, including the Daily Grind, which is decorating with a coffee theme; Dairy Queen, which will use an ice cream theme; and Two Men and a Truck, which is doing a Candyland theme.
There will also be a number of meals served during the week, which people can attend by making small donations. All proceeds raised from the meals and the tree sponsors will be donated to the Westbrook Food Pantry and the Good Samaritan Fund. Leighton said each group receives a couple thousand dollars and since the Festival of Trees started in 2000, around $75,000 has been raised.
As for the future of the event, Leighton said she expects it to remain the same and that the church can hold only five or six more trees. If one thing does change, though, she said she hopes it’s that more people come to the festival and enjoy the trees.
“It’s part of our community outreach because we like reaching out to people and bringing them in,” she said.
Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.
2017 Festival of Trees Schedule
Saturday, Dec. 2
Breakfast with Santa, 8:30-11 a.m., free
Public Dinner, 5-6 p.m., $10
Sunday, Dec. 3
Teddy Bear Tea Party with WWCC Kids Choir, 1:30-2:30 p.m.
Advent celebration, “Christmas AMENS and AH-Has,” 5 p.m.
Monday, Dec. 4
Tuesday, Dec. 5
Mad Hatters Tea Party with the Lighthouse Jubilees, 1:30-3 p.m.
Drouin Dance Center performance, 6:30-7:45 p.m.
Wednesday, Dec. 6
LOGOS presentation, “Cloth for the Cradle,” 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 7
Public community dinner, noon
Friday, Dec. 8
Tips for Charity luncheon, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 9,
Mystery gift tree, 10 a.m.-noon.
For a listing of tree viewing times, go to westbrookfestivaloftrees.com.
Festival of Trees coordinator Cheryl Leighton sponsored this year’s book tree, assembled by the Walker Memorial Library, for the 17th annual event.
Becky Normandeau, the activities coordinator at Westbrook Housing, decorates a heart themed tree for the 2017 Festival of Trees event, which takes place Dec. 2-9.