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Festival of Trees events takes place Friday to Sunday

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The annual North Country Festival of Trees will celebrate both the spirit of giving and remembrance this holiday season.

Beginning at 10 a.m. Friday and ending at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Dulles State Office Building, 317 Washington St., the Festival of Trees raises money for youth programs and services at Samaritan Medical Center and the Watertown Family YMCA. It also will be a time to remember one of the event’s most dedicated decorators, Jim Henry.

“He’s been a really generous person to the program,” said Elizabeth C. Fipps, Samaritan’s vice president of foundation and community services. “Last year, he decorated three trees. He had the most fancy trees.”

Mr. Henry died earlier this year. The event committee named a new award — the Most Whimsical Tree — in his honor.

The committee purchases 4-foot and 7-foot artificial trees, and 3 feet or 5 feet of white lights, for each entry. There are 56 trees this year.

Businesses sponsor a tree, and employees or designated volunteers decorate the trees at their own expense.

The following awards also will be given: Best Use of Materials, Most Creative, Best of Festival/Judge’s Choice, Most Elegant, Best Children’s Theme, Most Traditional and Best Use of Theme.

This year’s festival theme is “Christmas in the City.”

Mrs. Fipps said that while some people are taking it literally and focusing on “Christmas in the City” of Watertown, others are “taking it to cities across the U.S.”

While people decorated trees Monday and today, the actual event begins at 10 a.m. Friday with a public viewing and the start of a silent auction until 4 p.m.

A preview gala will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, which will feature a strolling supper and live auction of a few trees.

The cost is $70 per person, and reservations are required by calling the hospital at 785-5745.

The public viewing continues from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, along with live entertainment.

The Sugarplum Ball, a parent-child dance, will be held from 6 to 9 p.m., at the cost of $70 per couple. Additional guests are $35 each. Reservations also are required.

The event will conclude Sunday with a public viewing from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., live entertainment and the end of the silent auction of the trees.

Maryanne J. Vespa was at the state office building Monday, along with fellow volunteers Adrienne C. Alteri and Johanna R. Keeler, to decorate their “Advent Christmas” tree for St. Anthony’s Church, 850 Arsenal St. Anne B. Spaziani coordinated the effort.

“The colors of advent are pink and purple,” Mrs. Vespa said, as the women wrapped colored ribbon around the their 7-foot tree. “We try to keep a religious theme.”

Funds raised from the event will be split between the Samaritan Foundation and the Watertown Family YMCA.

Mrs. Fipps said the hospital will use the money for the pediatric floor, and will decide by the end of December whether the funds will be spent on equipment or on sprucing up the unit.

Y Executive Director Peter W. Schmitt said the Y’s portion will be used for financial assistance for children “to ensure access, regardless for ability to pay.”

That money will cover scholarships for child care, membership, specific programs, swim lessons and school-age child care.

Last year, he said, more than 1,000 children benefited from the Y’s financial assistance.

Mrs. Fipps said dozens of sponsors came together to make the event possible.

Major sponsors and media sponsors of the festival include Kinney Drugs Foundation, Coca-Cola, KeyBank, Perrywinkle’s Fine Jewelry, Purcell Construction Corp., the Watertown Daily Times, Samaritan Health, Sherwood Florist, Community Broadcasters, WWNY TV-7 and WNFY-Fox 28.

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