Walking in a winter wonderland
Published 6:46 am Monday, November 23, 2015
By Cathy Hay
Browsing through the Albert Lea Art Center’s annual Festival of Trees, one can hear a traditional carol.
“Sleigh bells ring/Are you listening/In the lane/Snow is glistening/A beautiful sight/We’re happy tonight/Walking in a winter wonderland.”
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Winter wonderland is the theme this season for the Festival of Trees at Northbridge Mall, a showcase of Christmas décor that dates back to the 1980s.
“People like to see how others do decorating differently. They like to get other ideas,” said Darlyne Paulson, one of the Art Center’s volunteers who worked on the event. “It kicks off the Christmas season.”
New to the festival this year is the Evening of Dazzle the night before the showcase opens to the public. The fundraiser starts at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, and includes hors d’oeuvres, wine tasting, door prizes and lighting of the trees. It also includes live music by the Albert Lea High School Caroliers, Norrine Jensen and a violin quartet. Tickets are limited and are $20 each. They are available at Hy-Vee, MarketPlace Foods, Addie’s Floral & Gifts, Albert Lea Convention and Visitors Bureau, Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce and the Art Center.
The festival opens to the public Sunday and runs through Dec. 23. Its hours are from 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, with extended hours until 7 p.m. Friday, and is closed Monday and Tuesday. While there is no charge to walk through the tree display, the Art Center welcomes donations.
“We’ve got unique trees,” Paulson said.
One such tree features Ronald McDonald and memorabilia from the fast-food icon. Joyce Nixon and Carol Wolter were busy like elves this past week adorning the tree with Happy Meal toys, French fry boxes, McDonald movies and more. They used a color portrait of Ronald to top the tree. Nixon noted that the McDonald’s corporation sponsored the tree, sending a box of materials for decorating. The tree shows that everyday items — even a fast food bag — can make a tree festive.
McDonald’s also donated two $30 gift books. The Art Center will have a drawing to award these prizes, with the winners announced Dec. 23, the last day of the festival.
In the front window of the mall space are the dazzle tree, a glitzy display of silver and teal; and the snow fun tree, a frolicking scene with snowmen sledding down ribbon wrapping the tree amid dangling ornaments of candy cane stripes.
Lu Callstrom, known for her painting of Albert Lea’s official flower, the red geranium, used the flower for her tree’s theme with painted cards, red feathers, gold bulbs and gilded beads. The flower’s greenery and red petals fit right in with the Christmas color scheme. Completing the theme is a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon by Morgan Bay Cellars in St. Helena, California, labeled as the Albert Lea City Flower. This wine is available, usually by special order, at the local Hy-Vee Wine and Spirits.
The Knights of Columbus sponsored a literal snowman tree, a lighted snowman decorated with a plaid scarf, poinsettias, garland, a happy face and — of course — a hat on top.
Festival-goers should take their time to study the sentenced to service tree, decorated with dozens of Christmas village scenes similar to Department 56. Ice skaters glide across ice, elves unpack ornaments, carolers rejoice in song and Santa snow surfs.
The wow tree by Marty Shepard is a shining tower of silver, gold and white.
Whether or not snow makes this Christmas glisten, residents and visitors can find a winter wonderland at the Festival of Trees.
“When it snows/Ain’t it thrilling/Though your nose gets a chilling/We’ll frolic and play the Eskimo way/Walking in a winter wonderland.”