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Seasonal sparkle of Festival of Trees celebrates 30 years support for County’s hospital

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
The magic and warmth of the festive season immediately comes to life in several large spaces dedicated to showcasing the annual Festival of the Trees.

Once again held at the Isaiah Tubbs Resort on County Road 12, what’s special about the 2023 edition held over the weekend, is this is the 30th year for the fundraising event for the County’s hospital.

While not a cold weekend, the damp, dismal, drizzly landscape outside ensured the grey gloom of early December was warmed by light and colour, wonderful music too, and enough sparkle to warm hearts and minds as the season was celebrated.

Sponsored by the Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital Auxiliary (known as the auxiliary), in support of the Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital, every year the festive event raises money (usually lots of it) to buy specific items of equipment.

This year, funds raised will go to purchase a Hamilton T-1 transport ventilator for the hospital, where it is hoped in excess of $50,000 can be raised this year.

The auxiliary reminds that the government does not fund any equipment for the hospital, where all new equipment needed for the hospital has be fundraised by the community through the Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital Foundation.

The idea behind the festival, which is essentially a silent auction on a magnificent scale, is to decorate and donate a three-foot Christmas tree for the auction where the public can bid, and re-bid, as many times as they wish over the three days, until the highest bid takes home the tree at the end of the show.

The ‘tree’ however can be something else, such as a wreath, a painting or artwork, furniture, books, anything at all really because the idea is to stretch the imagination, make it festive sure, but also to think outside the box (or tree), making the design eye-catching, fun, bright and twinkly, but most of all, enjoyable for the countless folks that come out to view the incredibly spectacle – but also to make it tempting enough to bid on.

More than 200 trees form part of the festival, many contributed by local businesses who decorate their trees to the nines, sometimes with a distinctive theme, but trees can be decorated and donated by anyone, such as groups, organizations, and individuals too.

The free event is a delight to browse and has become an annual favourite for many County families and friends to enjoy each year where some often make an occasion, and a day (and sometimes several days) of it.

While the theme of Festival of Trees is mostly dominated by exquisitely decorated trees, outlandish too, traditional sometimes, sparkly surely, some with a touch of whimsy, others more formal and elegant, there is no end to the creative imagination, or the vast and sometimes unusual choices on display, where the originality and uniqueness shines.

There were kids’ toys, clothes, warm comfy knitted blankets, a dolls house, a fabric quilt, furniture, glassware, woodworking, sculpture and so much more besides the decorated trees to bid on.

And to bring a rare smile to Leafs fans out there…

There was also a bucket draw raffle inside the entrance to the restaurant where for $5, folks received five tickets to put in any of the buckets for the items they were interested in, where the raffle was to be drawn near the close of the festival on Sunday.

An array of live musical entertainment acts over the three days added to the festive and relaxed ambience ensuring visitors were put in the Christmas mood as they enjoyed perusing the trees and the silent auction items in the restaurant area.

Acts included performances by Bill Woods, Caleb Hutton, Emma and Josh Colby, Jenica Rayne, the Library String Orchestra, Mark Despault, Nick Doombos, Sarah Benedict, and many more.

Here Shout Sister enthralled a large crowd for 45 minutes with several uplifting and familiar seasonal tunes, including this author’s particular favourite, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”, where this lesser known 1950s tune (which turns 70 years old this month) meant joyful smiles were evident on the faces of many in the sizeable and appreciative crowd.

An exceedingly busy Santa even made space in his tight schedule to drop by the event for a few hours on each of Saturday and Sunday in the upper level of the MacDonald Hall beside the fireplace where photos with the big guy for the little (and slightly older) ones came at no charge.

The auxiliary bake sale of home-made goodies of cookies, cakes and sweets was back at Festival of the Trees this year as a secondary location, due to popular demand Friday, and Saturday, until everything was sold out.

This community and family event brings home the meaning of the magic of the season, the importance of tradition, but is also a positive way to give back to the local hospital, while acknowledging the huge on-going essential fundraising efforts of the auxiliary – which, until Jan. 31. 2024 includes a 1:1 match on all gifts donated by the community to the Back the Build campaign, up to $100,000.

The Festival of Trees is 100 per cent volunteer run with all proceeds raised going to the Picton hospital.

Running concurrently was the Christmas boutique at the Second Time Around Shop on Picton Main Street which had many reasonably-priced Christmas decorations and gifts, home décor, jewellery and more.

More on the volunteers at the Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital Auxiliary, who have been doing tremendous work in this community since 1934, can be found at

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