The Lung Association’s Festival of Trees is a unique kick off to the festive season here in Sault Ste. Marie. It has become a city wide tradition and 2013 marks the 15th year that the Lung Association has proudly organized this wonderful fundraiser. It’s an event like no other. It takes days to set up and be perfected, but once the empty boxes have been stored, the ballroom at the Delta Sault Ste. Marie Waterfront becomes a Christmas wonderland. The beautifully decorated trees get a lot of praise from the crowd as they walk around the cozy room. Event goers can’t help but be in the Christmas spirit once they have left.
The community support is the glue that holds this event together. Many businesses and organizations jump at the opportunity to be a part of this popular event. At other events the Lung Association holds throughout the year, Festival of Trees always surfaces, rather it be in March or July. The Ontario Lung Association has many community office spread throughout the province. Some are famous for golf tournaments, garden events, hockey tournaments and in Sault Ste. Marie we are famous for the Festival of Trees. It has become an event distinctive to Sault Ste. Marie.
We are forever grateful to our sponsors, supporters and organizations who participate, but we sometimes forget about the people who dedicate their time for nothing in return. These people are our volunteers. We have over 100 volunteers from start to finish. Day one we have over 30 volunteers come to help set up and fluff the trees and let me tell you fluffing the trees is very time consuming. The volunteers make this day a lot easier as we have to unload and set up over 50 trees.
There are two volunteers in particular the Lung Association has that make this event extra special. La-Na Fragomeni and Ora Mae James are two very devoted women. Last year was my first year with Lung Association, I started in October and Festival of Trees was just over a month later. The whole event was not clear to me until I saw the finish product. On the Wednesday night before we opened, after all the boxes were put away and the last minute adjustments were made, I sat there is disbelief. A few days earlier, the ballroom looked like complete chaos. Boxes, trees and decorations were everywhere. I thought to myself, “How could this place turn into a beautiful Christmas wonderland in just a few days.” The answer was sitting right across from me. La-Na has been in charge of site design for 15 years. She has a knack for decorating and a prestige way of handling chaos. She always has a “don’t worry” attitude, something Grace, Volunteer and Fund Development Coordinator, and I need a dose of during the event. She works very closely with Grace weeks before the event choosing trees at Canadian Tire for organization’s desire. She also helps the participants choose decorations and gives expert advice on how to decorate.
Opening day at Festival is always exciting but it takes a lot of people to make it runs smoothly. These people are the ones you can find selling tickets at the front door, the greeters as you enter and the people selling raffle and auction tickets. Over the four day event, there is a schedule of each volunteer position and we are lucky to have Ora Mae organize the volunteers for the past 15 years. Ora is a retired teacher and she gathers her fellow retirees and friends to help out at festival. She is very detailed oriented and puts everyone else before herself. Her background in teaching helps us organize and stay focused on the task at hand. Amidst the commotion she is always there to lend a helping hand, doing more than she needs to. Her dedication to the Lung Association is tremendous. It warms my heart to know there are people like her in this world.
Some people may think it’s the trees, lights and decorations that make this event so much fun and successful, but I really think it is the people like La-Na and Ora. Without their dedication and support, this event would not be possible. It takes unique people to dedicate so much of their time to help an organization fulfill its goals. Grace and I are very thankful for La-Na and Ora’s service over the past 15 years. You will have your chance to thank them in person when the doors open for Fifteenth Festival of Trees on Thursday, November 21st at 7 p.m.
Visit www.saulttourism.com for more information on things to see and do in Sault Ste. Marie!