ASSINIBOIA -- Started in 1999, the popular holiday event known as Festival of Trees took place in Assiniboia Dec. 2, in the theme of ‘Christmas in our Hometown’.
The glowing twinkle of lights, the opportunity to gather as a community, enjoy a meal and refreshments together and the festive flair added by the organizers all culminate into a fundraiser, and fun-raiser, to benefit the South Country Health Care Foundation and the Prince of Wales Cultural and Recreation Centre.
The South Country Health Care Foundation is a non-profit charitable foundation that receives, manages and distributes philanthropic funds to improve health care facilities within the south country area. They purchase necessary equipment for healthcare facilities, agencies and programs.
The holiday wonderland began with guests being treated to a catered meal. A live auction of donations and trees from local businesses and individuals takes place, selling the fabulous assortment that is on display. A silent auction and penny parade table of smaller, valuable items has something for everyone’s price range. The always popular 50/50 raffle generates additional income for the fundraising efforts.
A professional photographer was on hand to capture the festive moments for groups that wish to take home a picture or two. This year’s program was followed by a dance with the live band, The Mahoneys.
Organizers for the 2023 event included Joanna Croissant, Candace Mowbray, Lois Marit, Brandy Ermel, Erin Eberle, Krista Borgerson, Shelly Bissonnette, Sandy Ellert, Renee Clermont, Tess Ariss and Geri Ruzicka. Guests say they appreciate all the time and effort dedicated to hosting the festive, fundraising event in Assiniboia and it is always one of the highly anticipated activities in the community each year.
Croissant says “The committees have changed over the past 24 years with six new members coming on board this year as four long-term members retired last year.”
“This is my first year on my own as the chairperson as I started last year shadowing former chairperson, Michele Hoffos, who held the lead role for multiple years. I have always been involved with Festival of Trees and found a strong desire to give back more than being a donor or attendee,” says Croissant.
The committee encourages local businesses that donate to shop locally as it helps the small town thrive, and is also handy for the larger purchases that might need additional components or fine-tuning. Croissant says they sold out of tickets again this year and attendees are mainly from Assiniboia and surrounding area, but there are a few out-of-town guests that come and it always makes for a fun evening.
“It is a small economic boost for our community, but mainly it offers a much-needed value-added connection for all those who attend, donate, volunteer or even just share the news on social media.”
Shelly Bissonnette and Croissant served as MCs for the evening with Mayor Sharon Schaunberg serving as commentator for the evening’s events, and of course, auctioneer Boyd Stenburg.
“Sharon’s energy is always welcoming when she is introducing auction items as the live auction is one of the important draws of the night,” adds the FOT Chairperson.
While Festival of Trees events are often only seen in larger centres, guests and the community overall recognize the benefit of having a gala-style activity such as this right in their own community and appreciate the efforts of the committee and volunteers to host it each year for more than two decades. Assiniboia’s Festival of Trees offers a great community Christmas kick-off while helping benefit the causes they support and the committee maintains it is all possible because of the support they receive from those who attend and the sponsors and donations that people and businesses continue to provide.
You can follow the event’s Facebook page for news on where the money is being used, winners of draws and auction items and other updates.