ESTEVAN — Estevan will get overwhelmed by the Christmas wave this coming weekend.
Now that the Grey Cup in Regina is in the books, it's time to pull out festive costumes and get ready for the St. Joseph's Hospital Foundation's 10th annual charitable Festival of Trees – the largest fundraiser of the year for the local hospital. Proceeds from this event support the hospital in purchasing much-needed medical equipment.
Lori Gervais, the foundation’s executive director, said they are working hard to ensure they put together a great event for the community.
"We are evolving and changing things up slightly for the better," Gervais said. "We're excited to be coming back to in-person. And this is our 10th annual, so that's exciting too. It has been 10 years of this great event, raising money for the hospital and our local healthcare."
The Estevan Kinettes' Christmas Marketplace at the Wylie Mitchell Air Cadet Hall and the Estevan Exhibition Hall will run from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday and open the fun weekend. With 70 vendors participating, it will provide many opportunities to get some, or all Christmas shopping done.
One of the biggest Estevan nights out is back this year. The Festival of Trees Country Christmas gala dinner will feature live entertainment, auctions, food and more. The night at Affinity Place is to start with the Jingle and Mingle Happy Hour at 5 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:30 p.m. and the program.
This year, with no more pandemic restrictions, the foundation decided to get back to popular travel packages for the auction. Guests will have a chance to compete for getting a dream vacation to Mexico or California, a trip to New York, an adventure in Nashville, a Niagara Falls getaway, an Alaskan cruise and of course a popular staycation in Estevan.
"Now that things feel like they're opening up a little bit, we did put [international trips] back. We have Canadian trips, too, but we're opening it up to some more travel," Gervais noted. "And, of course, one of our regular best sellers in the auction is an Experience Estevan package, that's pretty fantastic. There are all kinds of events here in Estevan that people can experience, and it really brings awareness to how much we really do have to offer here."
The night will also see beautiful Christmas trees, sponsored by local businesses, auctioned off. The silent auction will feature over 25 different items of various value, so there will be something for everyone to bid on.
"Some silent auction items are best sellers that people like to see. And then there are also things that we try to be creative with and offer something that we think people maybe haven't seen before and will be excited to see," Gervais said. "We always have great, great support from all of the local businesses offering us those items."
With the event coming back to an in-person format, table sales have gone "fantastically" with a lot of returning and some new participants joining the gala, Gervais said.
On Sunday, Christmas family events will take over the city as the adults' night out is to be followed by the Hometown Family Fun Day presented by the Estevan Mercury. This year a collection of events and entertainment grew bigger and better than ever before and absorbed all the best from traditional and pandemic-times festivals.
"It is kind of new, but we've been slowly growing it through COVID. We've made some changes that we're going to stick with because I think we've all come to find out that COVID taught us lots of things that could be done differently," Gervais said.
The Family Fun Day will feature Santa's workshop with cookie decorating, crafts, face painting, a teddy bear hospital, minions and more at the multipurpose room in the Estevan Leisure Centre (10 a.m.-2 p.m.); Christmas movies – Arthur's Christmas (10:30 a.m.) and Elf (1:30 p.m.) at the Orpheum Theatre; a Christmas music family swim at the pool (1-3 p.m.); a play zone at the Church of God with bouncy castles and concession that is new for this year (10 a.m.-2 p.m.); pictures with Santa (10 a.m.-noon) and Santa's sleigh of gifts at the Affinity Place foyer (10 a.m.-2 p.m.); and the chalet at local McDonald's with milk and cookies for all kids 10 and under (10 a.m.-2 p.m.).
All events will be an admission by donation.
Gervais pointed out that the event wouldn't be possible without their amazing volunteers, and if someone wants to join the team there is still room and need.
"We have a fantastic volunteer group that always seems to step up, but I'm always looking for more people to help. So at any time anybody can shoot me an email at email@example.com and we would be happy to have people come and help us for all kinds of different things," Gervais said. "There are servers needed at the gala … and then there are all kinds of opportunities for people to help us ... during the Hometown Family Fun Day."