By Brian Swartz
Weekly Staff Editor
BANGOR, Maine — Christmas cheer arrived before Thanksgiving at Anah Shrine, where the second annual Festival of Trees brought a holiday glow on the coldest weekend of fall.
Held Nov. 23-24 and Nov. 29-30 at Anah Shrine on Main Street, the Festival of Trees featured 44 artificial trees this year compared to 15 in 2013, according to Potentate Lee Kaufman of Corinna. Businesses and Shrine-related organizations provided the trees, which could be no more than 7 feet tall; the sponsors “decorated them (trees) however they wanted to,” Kaufman said.
Decorations included many Christmas presents, from gift certificates to tools, calendars and “about everything that sponsors could dream up,” he said. After paying a $2-per-person admission, festival-goers purchased tickets, circulated among the well-decorated trees, and then placed tickets in the bucket for the tree or trees that each person liked the best.
Drawings held on Sunday, Dec. 1, determined each tree’s winner, who “received the tree and everything that goes with it,” Kaufman said. “I know of two trees that have more than a $3,000 value to them, including the tree. I don’t think there’s a tree out there that’s not worth at least a thousand dollars.”
The Festival of Trees was a fundraiser for Anah Shrine — and a pleasure to behold for people attending the event. With the lights dimmed inside Anah Shrine, the 44 trees resembled a holiday-decorated forest at night, stretching across the building’s banquet room. Adults and children circulated among the trees while Santa Claus and his elves held court nearby.
Among the trees was a bulb- and garland-bedecked white tree provided by Wilson & Wilson First-Rate Services, owned by Shriner Dan Wilson of Carmel. He purchased the tree at Sears at the Bangor Mall, then “went around to different businesses and asked them if they wanted to donate,” he said.
“I started looking for gifts on Thursday [Nov. 21],” Wilson said. The response was good; among the gifts available at his tree were a rod and reel from Ye Olde General Store in Carmel and gift certificates from the Bangor Mall and Old Town Dairy Queens, Pat’s Pizza and TBA in Bangor.
“I did this to help out the Shrine,” Wilson said.
Festival attendance was excellent, according to Kaufman. “This is highly successful, not only from a monetary situation, but to bring a venue like this to Bangor,” he said. “There isn’t anything else like this in Bangor.”
Among the businesses and organizations sponsoring Christmas trees were the city of Belfast, Texas Roadhouse, Machias Savings Bank, the Washington County Shrine Club, New Hair Review, Viking Lumber, Katahdin Trust Co., Willey’s Sports Center, the Anah Academicians and Tracy Autobody. The Anah Clowns and Anah Nascar Unit each provided two trees.