ST. ALBANS CITY — The 11th annual Festival of Trees — a week-long series of galas, performances, crafts etc. celebrating the holiday season — started off with a bang Saturday night in Taylor Park. In fact, with several bangs.

The city’s holiday tree and downtown decorations lit up around 5 p.m.

The Island Tree Service helped prepare the tree, while Heath and Lori McAllister led the light-stringing effort.

Less than an hour later — shortly before 6 p.m. — Northstar fireworks lit the sky, visible for miles above the downtown area.

Franklin County Animal Rescue began the festivities with a pet memorial and prayer.

The city fire department kept a bonfire cooking in Taylor Park.

The fire department even helped transport Old St. Nick himself, Santa Claus.

All the while, St. Albans radio station WRSA 1420 100.3 played Christmas music classics, the Taco Truck All Stars sold hot food and cocoa and St. Albans Community Arts and Festival of Trees committee volunteers served free cider and cookies. St. Albans City School students pressed most of the cider.

Chip Sawyer, the city’s director of planning and development, said Saturday’s festivities is “one of our favorite annual events.”

“It was great to see hundreds of people in the park last night,” Sawyer told the Messenger, “and to hear everyone cheer when the tree lights came on, and when Santa showed up with the fire department.”

Sawyer stressed that the city couldn’t pull off the event without the city’s public works, fire and police departments — as well as, of course, the Festival of Trees’ own volunteers.

The Festival of Trees week benefits Martha’s Kitchen and Northwest Family Foods.

The festival’s next events are Tuesday, Dec. 3: a children’s PJ and story party at the St. Albans Free Library and, for the bigger kids, a 1920s-themed holiday party at the Clothier, the new establishment on Main Street next to Twiggs.

For more information visit vtfestivaloftrees.com, or see the Messenger‘s festival preview.

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