The 21st annual Festival of Trees event will take place on Thursday, Dec. 5 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Exeter Town Hall.
Over 50 beautifully decorated Christmas trees will be on display and available to the highest bidders. For many local families, the event has become an anticipated tradition that signals the beginning of the Christmas season. Admission is free to the public.
Proceeds are distributed to the Community Children’s Fund, benefitting hundreds of local families in need. Last year, the fund distributed $67,930 worth of vouchers to 634 children for the purchase of warm winter clothing and bedding. Almost $38,000 of this total was raised by the Festival of Trees in 2018.
To Festival of Trees Co-Chair Jan Russell, the event is more than just a fundraiser. “It is a reminder that love, generosity and devotion exist,” she said.
The sentiment comes from a famous 1897 editorial in the New York Sun newspaper titled, “Is There a Santa Claus?” It was written by veteran newsman Francis Church to an 8-year-old little girl named Virginia.
“Indeed, there are many “Santas” in the Exeter area who are showing this very kind of generosity,” said Russell.
Dan Jackson, of Arjay Ace Hardware in Exeter, has been donating all of the live evergreen trees to the Festival of Trees for many years.
The following decorators have already sponsored the trees (many of them participate every year): Acorn School, Ani’s Bagel Café, Aroma Joes, Bayside Distributing, Bayside Financial, BHG Masiello, Club Finz Parrot Head Club, CMS Builders Club, Czar’s Brewery & Eatery, Diamond Dance Academy, DiBona Dental group, EAGFW-Girls in Action, Edward Jones, EnvironVantage, EACC Ambassadors, Exeter Area GFWC, Exeter Day School, Exeter Education Association, Exeter Power Yoga, Exeter United Methodist Church, Fairfield Inn, Filler Family Dentistry, Fit Body Transformations, Great Bay Kids, Hampton Inn & Suites, Hannaford, Interiors by Roberta, Jeffrey Toomey Landscape, ReMax-Jim Mills, LaCascade du Chocolat, Lexie’s Exeter & Gerry’s Variety, My Reis Salon, Newburyport Bank, Newmarket Community Church, Novel Neighbors, Paws Pet Boutique, Rejuvinations Professional Massage, Richie McFarland Children’s Center, Riverwoods, Riverwoods Lodges, Sage Legal, St. Michael Parish, Savers, Seacoast School of Technology, Sensational Student’s Tutoring, Smuttynose Brewery, The Beauty Bar, The Bungalow Club, The Carriage Barn, Yankee Clipper Yard Maintenance, and YMCA Exeter.
There will also be a special tree on display dedicated to the generosity shown by the following underwriters: Arjay’s Ace Hardware, Edward Jones-Karin Behrens, Exeter Hospital, Graham Tire & Auto, Jack Post Tree Stands, Nathan Wechler, PA, Chinburg Builders, Cummings/Lamont & McNamee, D.F. Richard, Pipers Property Management~Susan Conway, Phillips Exeter Academy, Cross Insurance, Bayside Distributing, Citizens Bank, ConvenientMD Urgent Care, Frank Webb Home, Proulx Oil & Propane, Riverwoods, and United Underwriters.
Festival of Tree funds raised through the silent auction, decorator sponsorship, the raffle tree, general donations, and Mrs. Claus’ Cookie Room sales are given directly to the Community Children’s Fund, which is under the Exeter Charitable Foundation’s (ECF) umbrella. Last year, the ECF celebrated its million dollar mark in voucher distribution over the past 30 years.
Exeter’s Festival of Trees not only lights up the Town Hall every year, but touches many people in the community who come together to enjoy the festivities and offer hope and comfort to children in the surrounding communities.