Festival of Trees celebrates holiday spirit

Families, seniors and the public are invited to get into the Christmas spirit during the 16th annual Festival of Trees which begins Friday at Vancouver Island University (VIU).

More than 50 decorated trees have transformed VIU’s upper cafeteria at the Nanaimo campus into a colourful winter wonderland. The nine-day festival, with Canadian Tire as the presenting sponsor, starts Friday, Nov. 19 and runs until Nov. 27. The campus is already brightened by a light display sponsored by Houle Electric and Shaw Electrical Services.

Three and a half-year-old Alisara Rose Barclay adjusts a decoration at Vancouver Island University’s Festival of Trees under the watchful eye of her mother Honey Barclay, a graduate of Culinary Arts program at VIU.

“The Festival trees this year are simply amazing,” says VIU special events co-ordinator Renee Bohun. “Each tree is unique. The creativity that goes behind each design is really something to see.”

Families with young children are invited to visit the Festival during Family Days Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 20 and 21, from noon to 5 pm. Festivities include live entertainment, refreshments and treats (by donation), Santa photos, and an array of children’s activities. Family Days is sponsored by Island Savings, Woodgrove Centre, TD Canada Trust and Charlene and Ken X. Westfall.

Christmas shoppers can find unique gifts at a Holiday Craft Fair presented by Campus Recreation in conjunction with Family Days. An online auction sponsored by Coastal Windows and Atlas Truss, is already underway for distinctive products and services that could come in handy for the season or other occasions.

Public and Seniors Day sponsored by Investors Group is Saturday, Nov. 27. also features live entertainment and seasonal treats.

Raffle tickets for most of the decorated designer Christmas trees will be available for purchase throughout the Festival.

With more than 200 volunteers, the Festival of Trees is the largest community fundraising event held by VIU’s Office of Development and Alumni. Proceeds support student awards, scholarships and bursaries.

One of the most popular events, Friday’s Festival of Trees Luncheon sponsored by RBC, has sold out. The Festival of Trees Gala on Friday, Nov. 26, is close to selling out. Tickets are $175 (Charitable portion: $100) for a four-course menu prepared by the Vancouver Island University Culinary Arts program with service by the Hospitality Management program. The gala is sponsored by Coastal Communities Credit Union with a safe drive home program sponsored by Tom Harris Auto Group and Tom Harris Cellular.

All Festival activities take place in Building 300 (upper cafeteria) at Vancouver Island University.

Admission is by donation. Free parking is available on site during all Festival events courtesy of Robbins Parking. VIU’s upper cafeteria is wheelchair accessible.

“We’d like to send an extra special thank you to all our sponsors and volunteers,” added Bohum. “Without their support this event would not be possible.”

For further information including details on how to order tickets for special events or bid in the online auction, visit: viu.ca/festival/