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Trees reflect both joy and need (photos)

Annual festivals opening in several communities

Monday, November 26, 2012
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The Schenectady County Historical Society & the YWCA of Northeastern New York's  6th Annual Festival of Trees.
The Schenectady County Historical Society & the YWCA of Northeastern New York's 6th Annual Festival of Trees.

— It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the YWCA of Northeastern New York, and at the Schenectady County Historical Society, too.

Inside each of the historic buildings is a forest of beautifully decorated trees, on display through Dec. 9 as part of the Festival of Trees fundraiser.

A cursory glance around the two rooms of trees that grace the YWCA reveals an abundance of holiday charm, but a closer look shows that many of the trees stand as reminders that the holiday season shouldn’t focus solely on glitz, but on caring for others as well.

Concerned for the Hungry’s tree, decorated with small cereal boxes, muffin mix packets and pouches of instant mashed potatoes and Spanish rice, is a call to share holiday bounty with the hungry.

If you go

Here is a list of festivals of trees in the Capital Region this holiday season:

* The Schenectady County Historical Society and the YWCA of Northeastern New York’s 6th annual Festival of Trees will be held through Dec. 9 at 32 Washington Ave. and 44 Washington Ave.

The displays will be open from noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and from noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.

Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children ages 5 through 12, with children 5 and under free.

* The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Women’s Club Festival of Trees will be held in the Ballston Town Hall, 323 Charlton Road, from Friday through Sunday. Hours are from noon until 5 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon until 4 p.m. Sunday.

Admission is free but donations are accepted to the club’s scholarship fund.

* The 18th annual Saratoga Festival of Trees will be held from Wednesday through Sunday at the Saratoga Springs City Center on Broadway.

General admission is from 2 to 10 p.m. Thursday and Friday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday .

Tickets are $8 for adult, $5 for senior citizens, $3 for children over 10. Children 10 and under are free. There also are special events. Visit www.saratogafestivaloftrees.com or call 587-5000.

* Century Club’s 21st annual Festival of Trees runs from Saturday through Dec. 8 at the Century Club, 130 Guy Park Ave., Amsterdam.

General admission is Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m., and Dec. 3, 4, 6 and 7 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The cost is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors over 65 and $3 for students.

Visit centuryclubofamsterdam.org or call 842-2031.

* Family and Children’s Services of the Capital Region is having its third annual Capital Region Festival of Trees at its 650 Warren St. headquarters in Albany from Friday through Dec. 9.

Trees will be open to public viewing weekdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays.

The snow-white tree erected by the American Gold Star Mothers offers an opportunity to recall lives lost in the line of duty. A red, white and blue bow tops the tree, which is decorated with gold stars, each bearing the picture of a fallen hero.

Schenectady Community Action Program’s tree is decorated with pretty, clear glass balls filled with what looks like snow. On each ornament, inscribed in blue, is one meaningful word, evoking what could be the wish of some of the area’s most needy residents: Heat. School. Shoes. Warm. Home. Food. Health. Safe.

“I love the gingerbread tree. It smells so good,” shared YWCA employee Lynne Jachna, taking in the aroma of a tree covered in gingerbread men sporting red candy hearts.

Near the entryway to the YWCA is a tree dedicated to survivors of Superstorm Sandy. Tacked with clothespins to the bristly green branches are colorful hats and socks. Below the tree is a box where donations can be placed.

Nearby is a giving tree decorated with handwritten wish lists, for needy children who attend day care at the YWCA and at Schenectady County Community College. The public may take an ornament off the tree, purchase the gift listed on it and return it to the YWCA.

Elegant air

The trees on display at the Schenectady County Historical Society have an elegant, antique air.

A steady stream of visitors has been stopping in to admire them since the exhibit opened Friday, said curator Ryan Mahoney.

“It’s just great to get a whole new audience in here, especially for the holidays. It’s great to highlight our own organizations, but also the other organizations that are decorating the trees. It gets everybody in the holiday spirit,” he said.

Matt and Cheryl Surman of Guilderland came with their extended family to see the display on Sunday. Their 3-year-old daughter, Madeline Surman, and her 4-year-old cousin Noah Surman posed in front of one of the carefully decorated trees and called out, “Cheese!” as Matt Surman squatted down to take their picture.

“We come here every year to see the trees and our daughter loves it,” Matt Surman said. “This is something pretty special.”

Rose Surman of Cobleskill, who was also part of the group, agreed. “Instead of doing the Black Friday thing and shopping, we come and do this kind of stuff ... family things,” she said.

The Surmans had plenty of adults on hand to watch the excited youngsters as they flitted from tree to ornately decorated tree.

Sure to appeal to young and old visitors alike is the Victorian Christmas tree, decorated with delicate ornaments from the 1800s.

“You can just get lost staring at it,” said Mahoney, as he pointed out an antique car ornament made of paper.

The Shiny Brite Christmas tree, decorated by historical society staff members, is adorned exclusively with Shiny Brite-brand bulbs in faded pastel colors. Beneath it, the yellowing boxes the glass ornaments came in are propped against the trunk.

Several trees evoke local history, including the Caroling Along the Canal tree, brightened by little wooden barges, rustic garland made from rope and red berries; and the Chugging into Christmas tree, decorated with wooden train cars and photos of locomotives.

The A Bear in the Stockade tree, festooned with all sorts of bear ornaments and a garland of red beads, brings to mind the real bear that wound up in a tree not far from the historical society back in May.

Pat Roslund of Niskayuna brought her daughter, Holly Boginski of Boston, out to see the trees Sunday.

“I thought she’d enjoy seeing the variety of trees. They’re always so interesting and creative,” she said.

The two also had plans to bid on a tree or two. Three of the trees featured at the event are being raffled off.

Proceeds from the Festival of Trees will be split evenly between the YWCA and the Schenectady County Historical Society. Mahoney said the goal is to raise about $3,000.

 
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