As the holiday season draws closer, Windham Hill United Church of Christ (UCC) is launching preparations for its popular annual event called the “Festival of Trees.”
The community is invited to view the decorated trees and then purchase tickets for 50 cents each and then to place them near the trees that are their favorites. Each tree’s sponsor will decorate the tree and then put gifts on and around the tree, with many gifts coming from their business or organization. Drawing winners will receive the tree itself, with all of its lights and ornaments, and all of the gifts on the tree branches, and all of the gifts under the tree.
In the past, Windham UCC Festival of Trees drawing recipients took home everything from toys and gift items to kitchen supplies and jewelry and there is always great excitement leading up to the Grand Drawing on Sunday afternoon.
Admission to the “Festival of Trees” is free and everyone is welcome to visit to see these beautiful trees and review the gifts from the tree sponsors.
“This year is a very special year for us as we lost Bob Turner in January of this year,” says Paula Smithson, member of Winham Hill UCC. “My husband, Bob, and I, along with other members of Windham Hill UCC helped Bonnie and Bob Turner carry out the idea the Turners brought to our church in 2017 called Festival of Trees. They had been involved in the same project when they lived in Brewer.”
As originally planned, local merchants and friends were contacted to sponsor a tree with items that they selected for the event.
“We might have started with 18 trees but have now grown to 22 fully decorated trees that fill our Fellowship Hall, says Smithson.
She said that all the profits generated from the event go to church mission projects in the community.
“With the loss of Bob Turner this past January, we want to honor him in any way possible. His wife, Bonnie, was a great team player with Bob,” Smithson says. “He did everything the first year to get the event off the ground, and we learned so much from the two of them. We had many meetings with him, and he showed us the way for six years.”
One of the ways that the members of Windham Hill UCC are honoring Bob Turner this year is by having a special tree in his memory that shows how much he loved life. Smithson said that he deeply loved his family and was such a great leader for the event in many ways.
“The tree for him is based on things that he loved to do with his family,” Smithson says. “They loved playing board games, barbecues, boating, and just sitting around enjoying each other. He was the same way with his friends, too.”
His tree will have a barbecue grill and stand, gift certificates to local restaurants, a cooler, accessories that enhance the grill theme and many other fun items.
“We will have posters in Fellowship Hall explaining the Mission Projects and how the event supports our church,” says Smithson.
Some of the mission projects include donating to the Windham Food Pantry, making Blessing Bags to give to the homeless, donating to the Sebago Lakes Region Fuller Center for Housing, and providing meals for families in need at Thanksgiving and Christmas. As far as national projects, Smithson said that Windham Hill UCC also gives to fire victims, hurricane victims and other causes such as those.
Prize winners in the grand drawing don’t have to be present to win.
There will also be a café at the event that will be open during the “Festival of Trees” serving fish chowder, tacos, macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, and plenty of baked goods such as whoopie pies and other assorted treats. <