The Daily Gazette
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Festival of Trees helps regional organizations share their messages

Paula LaJoy got the idea of a balloon tree from Pinterest; she put together the inflatable icon at the YWCA in Schenectady last week.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber
Paula LaJoy got the idea of a balloon tree from Pinterest; she put together the inflatable icon at the YWCA in Schenectady last week.
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Don’t talk about Christmas trees and branch needles with Paula LaJoy. Needles are the last thing she needs for her decoration at the YWCA in Schenectady.

“I’m a balloon artist,” LaJoy said as she built a 10-foot balloon “tree” inside the Washington Avenue facility.

Artists from all over the Capital Region and beyond are in holiday moods, stringing lights and hanging ornaments for festivals of trees. Holiday arbor days will be held in Saratoga Springs, Ballston Spa, Gilboa, Amsterdam, Queensbury and Pittsfield, Mass.

The YWCA and Schenectady County Historical Society are partners for the city festival, which begins Friday and runs through Sunday, Dec. 15. Paid admission to one building includes admission to the other.

Last week, LaJoy used green balloons the size of beachballs to form the base of her holiday tower. Basketball- and volleyball-sized balloons followed.

“And then baseballs,” said Jon LaJoy, 11, standing on a ladder and helping his mother inside the YWCA’s Margery Kathan Room.

“It’s going to have gold and red all the way up,” Paula LaJoy said, using smaller balloons as inflatable ornaments.

This is the seventh joint festival for the YWCA and historical society. The YWCA has 35 trees, the society about 25.

“It’s one of our nicer events,” said JoAnne Voris Rafalik, development and communications director for the YWCA. “It’s a friend-raiser event. We have a lot of groups that come; a lot of children and families come, too.”

Rafalik loves the creativity that comes from participants such as Concerned for the Hungry, the Kiwanis Club and Gold Star Mothers.

“I think they do a wonderful job of reflecting their missions on the tree,” she said.

Members of Concerned for the Hungry have decorated their tree with boxes of cereal, fruit packets, chili seasoning mixes and other food packages. Kiwanis members are pictured in the center of white snowflakes. Gold Star Mothers have placed photos and names of soldiers — their family members — who have died in the line of duty.

Orange lights are on one tree, green lights brighten another. The Domestic Violence Coalition has decorated a purple Christmas tree with gold and silver ornaments and gold ribbon.

“Purple is the color of domestic violence,” Rafalik said.

Jon LaJoy was happy to help his mother, but he’s glad his family doesn’t dress up a balloon tree at home.

“You can’t decorate it with ornaments,” he said.

Famed figures

Ornaments are all over trees inside the historical society’s Vrooman Room, competing for attention with wall portraits of John Ellis, Clarinda Dygert Stauring, Giles Yates Vander Bogert and other famed figures from Schenectady’s past.

Decorators from the Heritage Home for Women have filled lace-lined, funnel-style cups with berries and candy canes and placed them on their snow-flecked branches. School spirit teams up with holiday spirit on the Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons High School tree. Yellow and maroon lights, gold and maroon ornaments and gold bows show off school colors. The topper is a knight’s helmet to remind visitors of the school’s “Knights” nickname.

Gingerbread men, red, green, yellow and blue lights and heart-shaped ornaments inscribed with words such as “Beauty,” “Happiness” and “Loyalty” are part of the Bethesda House Women’s Group tree. The theme is Hands and Hearts, Women Connected in Unity.

The Little Light Sabres, a 4-H club based in Rotterdam Junction, decorated a small tree with candy canes and green and red Christmas balls. Members topped the evergreen with a yellow and red four-leaf clover.

For the Sabres, which includes children ages 9-14, decorating for the holidays became a lesson in social behavior.

“They need to learn how they can do things for their community,” said group leader Yvonne Morris. “They learned how to share their ideas this year.”

Area festivals

Festivals of Trees will be held at the following locations:

-- Schenectady County Historical Society Festival of Trees, 32 Washington Ave., Schenectady.

Friday through Sunday, Dec. 15.

Hours: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Admission: $5 for adults, $2 for children. Children 5 and younger are free.

-- YWCA Festival of Trees, 44 Washington Ave., Schenectady.

Friday through Sunday, Dec. 15

Hours: Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Admission: $5 for adults, $2 for children. Children 5 and younger are free.

Note: Admission paid to one Schenectady festival includes admission to the other.

-- Saratoga Festival of Trees, Saratoga Springs City Center, Broadway.

Hours are Thursday, Dec. 5, 2 to 10 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6, 2 to 6 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 7, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 8, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Admission is $3 opening night; afterward, $8 for adults, $5 for seniors, $3 for children 10 and older. Children younger than 10 are free.

-- Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Women’s Club Festival of Trees, Ballston Town Hall, 323 Charlton Road, Ballston Spa.

Festival will be held Friday, Dec. 6, from noon to 5 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 7, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 8, from noon to 4 p.m.

Admission is free, but donations are accepted.

-- Century Club of Amsterdam Festival of Trees, 130 Guy Park Ave., Amsterdam.

Holiday trees lit from Saturday, Nov. 30, through Saturday, Dec. 7. Admission is $5 for adults, seniors over 65 are $4, students are $3.

-- North Country Festival of Trees, Queensbury Hotel, Ridge Street, Glens Falls.

Trees on display Thursday, Dec. 5, from 5 to 9 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 7 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 8, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors, $3 for children 12 and younger.

-- New York Power Authority’s Blenheim-Gilboa Visitors Center Festival of Trees, 1378 Route 30, Gilboa (17 miles south of Middleburgh).

Trees on display Sunday through Friday, Jan. 3, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Admission is free.

-- Berkshire Museum’s “Festival of Trees: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” at the museum, 39 South St., Pittsfield, Mass., through Jan. 7, 2014.

Open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 5 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Admission is $13 for adults; $6 for children ages 3-17. Museum members and children younger than 3 are free.

Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at



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