ST. ALBANS CITY — The city only has to wait two weeks for this year’s Festival of Trees, which begins the city’s second decade of the festival.
Attendees might mark their calendars now, but for the festival’s organizing committee, chaired by Judy Zsoldos, the festival is almost a year-long affair.
Zsoldos told the Messenger the festival committee begins planning every January.
“Now we’re down to the nitty-grittys,” she said.
The Festival of Trees is a week of activities here in the city essentially kicking off the holiday season.
The tree-lighting ceremony in Taylor Park begins the festival, as usual, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 30.
That ceremony starts with representatives from the Franklin County Animal Rescue conducting a pet memorial and prayer at 4:45 p.m.
Then, at 5 p.m., the city’s Christmas tree lights up, accompanied by an onset of carolers.
Santa Claus makes an early appearance and the St. Albans City Fire Dept. gets a bonfire cooking, by which attendees can enjoy free cider and cookies from St. Albans Community Arts and the Festival of Trees committee.
St. Albans City School students pressed this year’s cider.
That’s not all. The Taco Truck All Stars sell hot food and cocoa from a food truck parked on Church Street, on the east side of the park.
And fireworks finish the whole thing off around 6 p.m.
It’s an explosive start to a bustling week.
“There’s just so much to do,” Zsoldos said.
And she said what there is to do changes every year.
Zsoldos told the Messenger the festival committee “tweaks it a little bit” each year.
Some of those “tweaks” might be obvious, like changing the festival’s theme year to year. Zsoldos said “winter carnival” is this year’s theme.
But other tweaks, she said, are so slight many people might not notice.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the festival’s centerpiece: the fundraising gala at City Hall.
This year the gala is Dec. 6, from 6 p.m. to midnight.
Admission to the gala costs $50, but Zsoldos said all the gala’s proceeds benefit Martha’s Kitchen and the food shelf.
Supersounds plays the gala from 6-8 p.m. while attendees munch on the buffet. There’s a cash bar as well.
Then comes a charity auction, on top of an all-night silent auction and raffle.
From there, attendees simply dance the night away.
The committee promises a “spectacularly decorated” City Hall, including “a plethora of beautiful, creative and intriguing holiday trees” local organizations donated.
Those interested can purchase tickets through the gala’s Facebook or Eventbrite pages.
The weekend of the gala promises to be a lively one in the city.
Kids can take a “Journey to the North Pole” on Saturday, Dec. 7, a mile-long guided walk through the city beginning at City Hall and traversing nine different locations, with a different kid-friendly activity at each.
Any kid who completes the walk is entered into a prize raffle — the grand prize being a St. Albans Recreation Dept. gift certificate.
RiseVT sponsors the event.
That “journey” is sandwiched between time with Santa.
First, a breakfast, including pictures with Santa, at St. Mary’s Parish from 8-10 a.m.
Then the St. Albans Museum, on Church Street, becomes Santa’s Workshop from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., although Santa himself doesn’t appear until 10:30 a.m., allowing time for him to digest his breakfast.
Children there can partake in crafts including decorating gingerbread people.
The same weekend includes two days of live entertainment as well as a tree showcase, Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Visitors can see the aforementioned trees decorated and donated by community members.
The festival committee is also auctioning and raffling those trees.
But the trees alone will be standing still, surrounded not only by visitors but also by an entourage of live performers, dancing and singing throughout the course of the weekend.
The festival week also includes the Running of the Bells on Dec. 5, in which community members adorn themselves in costumes and bells and take off for a mile course downtown to the benefit of Operation Happiness.
There’s a children’s pajama party, with holiday stories, at the St. Albans Free Library on Dec. 3 at 6 p.m., a free holiday movie at the Welden Theatre on Dec. 4 at 6:30 p.m., movie title as yet undisclosed, and, for the adults, a “Twenties holiday party” Dec. 3 at the Clothier, a “speakeasy” opening beside Twiggs on North Main Street.
That shindig begins at 6 p.m. and includes live jazz. Jazz Age attire optional.
The Messenger asked Zsoldos if the festival committee needs volunteers ahead of the festival’s start, but Zsoldos said all the committee needs now is people “coming and enjoying” the festival activities.
“This is a community event,” she said. “We want as many [attendees] as possible.”