Festival of Trees
Event raises much-needed funds for PECMH
The Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital Auxiliary supports the hospital, its staff and patients through service by volunteers and also by raising funds to purchase or maintain medical equipment. It operates the Second Time Around thrift store in Picton and it also stages the annual Festival of Trees at the Isaiah Tubbs resort on West Lake. This is the 10th year the Auxiliary has run the event, although the festival’s history goes back 24 years as a charity fundraiser. Local sponsors are asked to donate a decorated Christmas tree, wreath or other Christmas themed item for a silent auction during the three-day event. The trees’ decorations can range from simple ornaments, to handmade knitted items, to gift certificates, and can be accompanied by an array of other items. In fact, the donated item may not even be tree-like at all—this year there were at least two doll houses and three pieces of vintage furniture among the over 200 items up for auction.
Jack Starkey is the manager of the committee that organizes the festival, which requires a large and dedicated group of volunteers to maintain its continuing success. All of the funds raised at the event goes towards the purchase of hospital equipment. “We always choose something that we’re going to put the money directly for,” says Starkey. “We try to make it something that’s a reasonable amount for us to pay for. This year, it’s for a video record of the endoscopy results. It costs over $100,000 and is something that has to be updated so that we can keep the endoscopy clinic at the Picton hospital.”
The event is more than just a silent auction for the trees. Local musicians volunteer their time to provide entertainment on all three days. There’s a bake sale as well as a sale of jams and other preserves. Long-time festival goers know to come early on Friday for the best selection. Two rooms full of delectable offerings were reduced down to a couple of sparse tables by closing time on Saturday.
There is also a raffle for a number of items as well as a boutique store, which offered new or nearly new items that were donated to the thrift store. Kids were not forgotten either, with both young and old having a chance to visit with Santa on Saturday and Sunday.
For many though, the draw of the event is the silent auction. Every item received at least a couple of bids, and some people came back multiple times to increase their offer. Occasionally, two names would be seen repeated in succession as they vied to be the highest bidder. There were some bargains to be had, but there were also some bidders who were determined to get a particular item—just before the close of bidding on Sunday a tree decorated in vintage glass ornaments had crossed the $300 mark.
Last year’s event raised over $44,000 for the hospital, helped in part by the fortuitous arrival of two busloads of visitors on a tour of the County. This year’s amount was not available at press time.