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Christmas trees hit the auction block Saturday

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Decorating a tree for the Festival of the Trees has become a tradition for childhood friends Patricia E. Bell, Mary B. Michaels and Kathleen Perretta.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Mrs. Bell said after hanging a pink flamingo on a tree. “It’s a way for us to connect and do something together around the holidays.”

The tree is one of 45 that will be auctioned to the highest bidder for the Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center Auxiliary’s 10th annual Festival of the Trees to be held Saturday at the Odd Fellows Community Hall, 1111 Linden St.

The friends’ tree theme is “Pretty in Pink,” using pink poinsettias Mrs. Bell got on her recent trip to Okinawa, Japan.

“My son-in-law is serving overseas in Iraq and his family is stationed in Okinawa,” Mrs. Bell said. “We thought it would be fitting because poinsettias are the flower of Christmas.”

The Festival of the Trees is the auxiliary’s biggest fundraiser for the Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center. Last year, the festival raised $125,000 for the hospital. The auxiliary raises money for specific projects and equipment needed throughout the hospital, and provides scholarships to area high school seniors.

The festival began in 2003 with 30 trees.

“Our biggest year was 52,” said Mary E. Lacombe, auxiliary president and festival co-chairwoman. “It’s always been a way to kick off the holiday season for many people.”

The tree auction begins at 8 p.m., but free events are held all day beginning at 9 a.m. Events include the Hollyberry Craft Sale, Once-Loved Christmas Treasures fair, live wreaths and kissing balls sale, silent auction of gift baskets, viewing of the trees, lottery tree raffle and handmade quilt raffle.

“We want to invite the community and tell them thanks,” Mrs. Lacombe said. “Many people stop by during the day. St. Joseph’s Nursing Home will take a bus out here for the day. It’s a great way for everyone to get out and enjoy the holiday spirit.”

The Once-Loved Christmas Treasures fair is one of the more unusual events before the auction. Beginning at 9 a.m., visitors can browse thousands of tiny trinkets and rare ornaments from Christmases past adorning the rows of tables in the back of the hall.

It takes volunteers three days to organize the tables, and the decorations are usually scooped up in a matter of hours, organizer Beverly J. Kelso said.

“The kids love to take a bag and fill it with gifts for their friends and family members,” Mrs. Kelso said. “It’s taking someone’s old traditions and making them your own. We usually ask for a small fee per bag.”

There will be a children’s crafts table from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with face painting by the Ogdensburg Key Club.

There will be more than 70 gift baskets available for silent auction, including a Coach basket, art from local artists, jewelry by Alex and Ani and wallets by Vera Bradley.

“Last year we had over 550 people bid on items,” silent auction co-coordinator Sharon Garvey said.

There will also be a giveaway of a half-karat diamond necklace worth $1,500 donated by Carbino’s Jewelers starting at 6 p.m.

“Tickets will probably be sold out quickly, so we are encouraging people to purchase them early,” Ms. Garvey said.

Viewing of the trees begins at 6 p.m. The auction, led by auctioneer Bob Kosman, starts at 8 p.m.

Admission into the auction is $15 and includes a viewing of the trees, a chance to bid on silent auction gift baskets, a lottery tree drawing at 8 p.m., a handmade quilt drawing at 8 p.m., a 50/50 raffle, and hors d’oeuvres. A cash bar will be provided by The Place.

Organizing the event begins in January and takes more than 50 volunteers to make it a success, Mrs. Lacombe said.

“I really enjoy the camaraderie we’ve built here,” volunteer Donna Pirie said as she decorated a tree with snowman top hats. “It’s great to see everyone else’s creativity and Christmas spirit at play.”

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