Annual Christmas Tree Fest
offers decorative delights
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2010. All Rights Reserved.
Fairfield, CT – ‘Twas three weeks before Christmas and all through the homestead, not a wall was left bare nor even a bedstead.
The scene was the historic Burr Homestead on Old Post Road and the event was the Fairfield Christmas Tree Festival, a three-day affair coordinated by the non-profit group of the same name which, for 29 years, has been hosting this special sale of spectacular, one-of-a-kind handmade holiday décor.
Passing through the heated, space tunnel-like tenting at the front of the mansion, visitors emerge into a wonderland of treats, not only for the eyes, but for all the senses. Holiday greens appear to have occupied every nook, the smell of warm apple cider drifts in the air and, on the morning of Dec. 4, the melodic tones of the Coastal Chordsmen enhanced the setting.
The Festival kicked off Dec. 2 with a preview party, featured a children’s event Friday, Dec. 3, and today offered a lady’s tea, evening wine tasting and Diane Smith signing her book “A Connecticut Christmas.”
Each year, according to former Fest board chair Patricia Gardner, a different organization is chosen as a beneficiary and receives all the proceeds from the event. Groups apply for the honor and its members help with set up. This year, the Burroughs Community Center on Fairfield Ave. in Bridgeport was selected.
Burroughs Board Member Karen Maloney, who is also co-chair of this year’s event and was responsible for seeking underwriting support, explained that the group serves the immediate community, with a focus on 5th through 12th grade students. It offers after-school programs, tutoring, summer travel opportunities and English language learning. Notably, the Center is collaborating with Fairfield’s Wakeman Boys and Girls Club to open in spring 2011 a gym, the Smilow Burroughs Boys and Girls Club, onsite.
Maloney noted that 17 different rooms and areas throughout the home had been filled from floor to ceiling with custom décor fashioned by a small band of talented ladies that had volunteered their skills for the cause. Items included full-sized Christmas trees, tabletop trees, garlands, boutique items, Nutcrackers and ornaments. “Any decorative accessory you can imagine for the holidays,” she summarized, “and in a wide range of styles from very dramatic to less formal, some child-focused.”
Jennifer Bartlett, the decorating chair, website chair and a Fest board member, mentioned that every year has its own theme and this year it is “Community.” Bartlett coordinates all the design work, taking supply orders from the designers and purchasing from wholesalers all the raw materials – every sprig, every ornament. “Then I watch them transform everything into their incredible creations,” she added.
All completed décor is then price tagged and displayed throughout the house in the many different settings – a living room, den, children’s bedroom, parlor, etc. All the items stay intact until the conclusion of the Fest at 4p.m. on Dec. 5, when visitors can then come to pick up their purchases.
Maloney mentioned that the children’s bedroom took nine full days to decorate and includes in the center of the room an antique carousel on loan from the Beardsley Zoo.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without Santa, and he was on hand, too, to receive the junior set in the second floor hallway. One Santa visitor was 11-week-old Freddy, whose parents had recently bought a home in Fairfield. Mom Jamie said, “We came to get Freddy’s first picture with Santa, but also to support the Burroughs Center and get in the Christmas spirit.”
Browsing downstairs, Cathi Curioli of Norwalk said, “It’s my first time here. There are so many beautiful things to look at. Amazing. Beautiful. I just finished redoing my house so am looking for fun stuff to put in it.”
Staff, like volunteer and Southport resident Teale Stevens, one of 40 or 50 volunteers onsite at any given time, were just glad to be playing a key part. “I like to help out and give back to the community.”
Others like Kallen, 22, and mom Katherine Knetzger were just bubbling over with holiday spirit.
“It’s so happy here. I don’t want to leave,” gushed Kallen.
“We’ve come here since she was a baby. The tradition continues!” chirped Katherine.