Optimistically Cautious

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Festival of Trees

A friend and I headed to the Shaw Conference Centre for Edmonton's annual Festival of Trees event tonight. In support of the University of Alberta Hospital, the Festival showcases hundreds of decorated trees and offers live entertainment, shopping, and activities for children. I am ashamed to admit that although I've lived in the city all my life, this was my first time at the Festival. When I asked my sister about the impression she garnered from volunteering last year, she said, "It's fun if you have kids." Well, I have no kids to speak of, but this seemed like a way to ease into the Christmas season that did not involve listening to carols streaming from store speakers.

The Hall is indeed beautifully decorated, with an arrangement conducive to allowing for easy access and movement between displays. Groups of trees dotted the middle of the room, separated by wide, maneuverable aisles, while organized children's activities such as card making and cookie decorating occupied the periphery. A stage, seating area, and concession lay at the far end of the room, with the perfunctory gift shop located near the exit. Whomever designed it definitely had parents and young children in mind though, as there are benches scattered throughout the space.

The trees being the main attraction, we wove through the displays, each selecting our favorites. The "theme" trees stood out the most, as by the end, individual tress began to morph into a generic cloud of tinsel, multicolored lights, and crystal ornaments. I had a soft spot for the Fringe Theatre Adventures creation, but my personal award for originality goes to the makers of the only "upside down" tree.

Despite taking in a brief highland dancing performance and exploring the gingerbread houses and hospital discovery area, we were finished our rounds in an hour. I am glad that I attended this year, but I have to agree with my sister's assessment about the Festival overall: it would be more fun with kids.

Entering the Hall

Fringe Theatre Adventures tree

Upside down tree

Star Wars tree

Ducks (and frogs) in a tree

The coolest gingerbread "house"

Lovely silver and reflective exit display (notice the mirror-tiled fireplace and foil-wrapped tricycle!)


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