Art Center reintroduces Festival of Trees after pandemic-related absence

Published 8:13 pm Monday, November 20, 2023

By Ayanna Eckblad

This Wednesday begins the return of the Albert Lea Art Center’s annual Festival of Trees. 

This will be the first Festival of Trees since the COVID-19 pandemic, and both the Art Center’s organizers and the public are excited to bring it back.

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“We’ve had a lot of requests from people to go ahead and do it again,” said Beth Tostenson, the art director at the Albert Lea Art Center.

The event takes two to three months to plan, beginning with getting in touch with people who may be interested in decorating a tree.

“Some are organizations and some are private people that just want to decorate,” Tostenson said. The trees are typically kept in the basement of the Art Center the rest of the year.  

They are brought out of storage and into the art center’s lobby by people from Sentencing to Serve, a program that provides a sentencing alternative for courts throughout Minnesota by putting selected non-violent offenders to work on community improvement projects.

In addition to trees, the Art Center will have an area decorated with a giant picture frame where families and individuals can take photos. There will also be some Christmas items for sale at the gift shop.

Tostenson’s favorite part of the event is seeing the unique decorations that people come up with for their trees. 

“They’re all unique. Everyone is different,” she said. “It’s fun to see what they do.” 

She also enjoys seeing the faces of those who come in and admire the work they have done.

The Albert Lea Art Center’s Festival of Trees is free and open to the public from Wednesday to Dec. 30. People are invited to come in during the center’s regular business hours of Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. They will also have open houses from 1 to 3 p.m. Dec. 3 and from 4 to 7 p.m. Dec. 7 during the Albert Lea Holiday Bazaar.

Some of the organizations and businesses that have decorated trees this year are Homestead Boutique, Life Center of Freeborn County, 4-H of Freeborn County Extension Service, United Preschool, Thorne Crest Senior Living and the Humane Service of Freeborn County.