Leduc Festival of Trees

On Friday, November 19th at 10 am, the doors opened to the 1st Annual FESTIVAL OF TREES at the Leduc Recreation Centre, a grand event hosted by the Leduc Regional Chamber of Commerce. This action packed two day event was a celebration of the season that featured a Christmas Market, a jovial Santa posing for pictures, various entertainers, a High Tea and a Crystal Ball.  The events were planned to benefit the Leduc Chamber, Relay for Life,  Triton Swimming, PAWS (Parents of Willow Park School) playground, Thorsby 2012 Grad Class, the Jumpstart Program and the  Leduc Food Bank.
 The Regional Chamber Team once again showed this community how this particular team performs like a ‘well-oiled’ machine. From the setup days where local groups and retail teams gathered to set up their booths in the Market or to decorate their Christmas trees, to the beehive of activity that buzzed for two entire days.
 Kids were a special focus of the daytime activities: they enjoyed face painting, colouring Christmas designs, cookie decorating, and a popular corner where Santa made a special stop to invite children into his sleigh to pose for photos taken by their parents. The ever popular ‘Sights and Sounds of Christmas’, a grand performance by the Black Gold Community Band and the Telford Seniors Choir are two acts that are always sure to  please music lovers. The stage where they performed was wonderfully decorated by Leduc resident and municipal politics hopeful Sheila Fraser. 
 The City of Leduc was the Title Sponsor, and its tireless LRC staff joined the Chamber team and its large contingent of volunteers in ensuring that the event would remain tidy and on schedule for the duration.  In The Christmas Market, adults and children alike enjoyed the numerous retailers and their colourful, festive displays from Alpaca wool toys and winter gear, jewelry of many styles and Guatemala artistry to embroidered tablecloths and Sylvan Lake cupcakes, a myriad of gift ideas and personal ‘treats’ were available for purchase, to the delight of many serious Christmas shoppers.
 Other young artists had a chance to perform and showcase their talent. Leduc household name Brendan Guy joined other young artists, some from the Pure Artists stable, in entertaining the visitors at different times, all day Friday and Saturday. Local photographer and Pipestone Flyer scribe Dominique Vrolyk delivered two half-hour presentations on Holiday Photography, generously sharing tips and techniques to improve photographic skills. These talks were supported by a slideshow of 573 photographs on a large screen. (that was fun!) 
 Besides the market and the sounds of live performances, a special event was the exciting focus of the Saturday afternoon schedule; The O Christmas Tea.  Catered by Kosmos Restaurant, a feast of scones, little sandwiches and pastries was prepared by British chef Tony Semple who at one time worked for the Queen at Kensington Palace.  A singing Flash Mob by members of Piata Forma, the Leduc choir led by Arlene Klonteig, took everyone by surprise, as a large number of servers and guests, placed here and there throughout the room, suddenly joined in a lovely chorus, to the crowd’s awe and delight. 
 A Fashion Show was the piece de resistance as five local merchants displayed their latest fashions.  Kathy Wagner owner of Risqué Lingerie & Swimwear and Michelle Grad (MG Artistry) joined their skills to prepare and introduce attractive and fun models.  Besides Risqué, Atlas Outfitters, Pennington’s, Phyxius of Beaumont and the newest trendy fashion’s boutique in Leduc Commons, Look Fashion Collection, delivered an attractive blend of chic and sporty outfits.  That night, a Tween Dance was attended and enjoyed by nearly one hundred youths.
 The Christmas Tree display, at the back of the Market in the Leduc County Fieldhouse, caused endless conversations and exclamations of delight. The towering 12 foot Canadian Tire tree adorned with elegant and oversized ornaments, the  feather and glitter purple tree (Minute Man), the magical white tree decorated by the Chamber ladies, the Peace tree proudly bearing nearly 500 cranes lovingly folded by Alana Geuethal and nine friends, the LINX and the Boys and Girls creative and fun trees, the Leduc Chrysler tree and its dozens of little cast iron cars and trucks, the SERVUS Credit Union tree covered in business cards, the Leduc-Nisku EDA’s smart collection of international flags, and a few more impressive trees joined several creative wreaths by local schools.  These were also very popular, as hundreds of children visiting the Market would proudly show off their school’s creation.  Each tree was donated, some being Silent Auction items and others being earmarked as Live Auction  items during the Saturday evening’s Crystal Ball.
 The Crystal Ball started with the seasonal sounds of children singing Christmas carols, another Santa visit and the joyous arrival of more than one hundred guests. With Grant McDowell as MC, the articulate and friendly pastor of the Leduc Alliance Church, the entire evening was fast-paced and fun.  Following the sumptuous banquet, the crowd enjoyed a strong performance by young songstress Danielle Lowe, who has a faithful following in this community, south of her hometown of Edmonton.  Lovely in a chic little black dress with her only jewelry diamonds shining at her earlobes, Danielle confirmed that her talent is genuine, her voice more confident with each performance,  her rhythm and charming demeanor strong assets of her growing popularity and mass appeal. She delivered several Christmas carols and country songs, one from a recently released CD, and even had to come back to the stage for an encore demanded by the guests.  Jason Simituk of Quantum Entertainment was a fun DJ who provided the quality tunes that enticed a large group of guests to ‘dance the night away’… literally! 
 The Live Auction was conducted in two parts by Doug Wickham of Leduc County, a Rodeo certified auctioneer who created some exciting bidding wars, assisted by his lovely wife Sharon.  The highest bid of the night came from a ‘friend’ on behalf of Steve Laurion, owner of the Leduc Canadian Tire Store, who then donated the gigantic tree to the Leduc Recreation Centre! Visitors and staff will be able to enjoy this lavishly decorated tree all season, in main hallway of the LRC.
 By all accounts the First Annual Festival of Trees, cleverly planned and executed by Stefanie Schulz and her Leduc Chamber team, was a resounding success.  The word is out that attendance is expected to double and perhaps triple at next year’s event, and plans will start in the New Year to accommodate a much larger crowd of performers, exhibitors and guests. 

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