It’s time, once again, for the Celebration of the Trees at the Shelby Area District Library. This annual holiday fest draws people from all over the county and as far as Muskegon — a much-anticipated opportunity for everyone and anyone to show off their artistic abilities, in the form of theme-inspired Christmas trees, wreaths, quilts and other artsy craftsy contributions. The fundraiser, organized by the Friends of the Library, is always on the first weekend of December; the trees are decorated on Wednesday, and are on display Thursday through Sunday. The last day is the real celebration, with entertainment featuring local musicians, a holiday bazaar, a hearty array of tempting refreshments and, of course, what everyone’s been waiting for — the winners of the silent auction, where bidders vie for the tree or other item of their choice, proceeds going to the library.
This year, over 35 local artists and community groups have decorated trees and wreaths and donated artworks. That’s an unusually large number, and a particularly appropriate one, because 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of the Celebration of the Trees. For Cindy McKinnon, president of the Friends of the Library and event chairwoman, it’s a chance, once again, to marvel at how this beloved tradition inspires an outpouring of community spirit.
“It’s amazing, how everyone comes together for it,” McKinnon reflects. “Ed Parsikian and his wife cut 12 live trees for us, provided by Pine Ridge Tree Farm, Many Blessings Market and Dykstra Orchards. Then Ross Field and Rick Isley take the trees and trim them, cut the trunks and mount them in stands. I don’t know what I’d do without those two guys. It takes my husband and me forever to get our tree trimmed, cut and mounted, but they do all the trees and get them into the library in about an hour and a half. I keep saying if I ever lose Ed, Ross and Rick I don’t know what I’ll do. But they’ve assured me they’ll be doing it forever.
“Our team of volunteers is outstanding. Emilee Best goes through all the items donated to the bazaar and re-does the old wreaths that we auction off. She should have been a home decorator — anything she touches is amazing. Mary Ann Carey is equally talented and does the decorating and staging of the event with Emilee. Janet Schultz and Ruth Tobin are great — they’ll just show up and help wherever they’re needed. Susan Spoors runs the Holiday Bazaar. And our library director, Tiffany Haight, and our assistant librarian, Jeremy Gowell, and the entire library staff is incredible.”
To McKinnon, the best part of the event is decorating day.
“It’s like a big party,” she enthuses. “All day, community people and businesses come in and decorate the trees and tables. I greet everyone, string electric cords and help with lights donated for those who don’t have them. My favorite is the school kids. When they come in and decorate, it’s so much fun. Somehow there’ll always be a tree with candy on it! And their handmade ornaments are so adorable.
“When you see how families come together, or businesses, or a couple comes in to decorate the trees, you see how much it means in terms of community spirit. And what’s really touching is how proud the parents are. Seeing a parent bidding on a tree because it has their kid’s ornaments on it is such a highlight to me.
“Many of the trees are so incredible, in terms of creativity and artistic talent. But to me, every tree is a testament to what the Celebration is all about — love for the library and the community. Every tree is beautiful, whether it brings in $10 or $1,000. I love that people of all ages participate, that everyone does their part to help the library, children as well as adults.”
McKinnon notes that there will be a few changes this year. “The bazaar will only be held Saturday and Sunday. And this year we’re not pricing the items. Sales will all be by donation. And we’ll take anything left over to LOVE, Inc. Sort of paying it forward. Also, we’ll be having a 25th anniversary cake on Sunday, courtesy of Woodland Market.”
In addition to the trees and wreaths, this year’s auction items include wall hangings, quilts and paintings. “Robert Bauer, a renowned artist who taught at GVSU and is now retired, has donated a winter canvas print,” notes McKinnon. “And we have two beautiful quilts, one donated by the Friendship Ring Quilt Guild and the other by Sewing Friendzees.”
The main event, though, is the trees. The library is transformed into a virtual Christmas arboretum, visitors going from room to room, admiring trees of all sizes, each one bursting with its own unique personality. Some of the memorable trees of the past have included everything from the Victorian Christmas tree, a vision of antique charm, to the rockin’ Elvis tree, with a skirt fashioned out of Elvis fabric and a CD of “Blue Christmas” as the tree topper, and the truly ingenious Wizard of Oz Tree — a small tree perched on a pair of dangling green-stockinged legs with telltale red and white striped socks, in homage to the scene where Dorothy’s house fell on the Wicked Witch of the East.
This year’s exhibits will be, as they always are, a surprise. But McKinnon is looking forward to one that’s become a tradition in itself.
“Every year, Mary Sloan does a tree with ornaments made of natural elements from their farm. Things like millet and bird seed. It just begs to be outside for the birds to enjoy it!”
Does she think the Celebration of the Trees will be around for another 25 years?
“I hope so,” she says. “You never know, because nowadays tradition isn’t so important to the younger generations. My husband and I talk about how difficult it is to attract younger people to the Friends of the Library and other community organizations. But ours such an eagerly anticipated community event that we do get younger people involved. For instance, Connie Near, who’s on our board, is doing a tree this year, and so is her daughter, Emily. So it’s heartening to see the tradition being carried on.”
According to McKinnon, local participants offering decorated trees, wreaths and other items for silent auction include: Linda and Heidi Andreas, Robert Bauer, Mary Ann Carey, Diane Cole, Margaret Clune, Amanda Dodge, Kathy Fox, Theresa Jessup, Joan Lound, Heather Baffi and the Thomas Reed Aspire children, Kelsey Mecher and Shelby Roars, Connie Near, Emily Near, Philip and Brenda Petersen, Lori Piper and Love INC., Emilee Best, Tonya Springer and WSESD Classroom, William Ramey, Marion Sandford, Mary Sloan, Shelby Library Preschool Story Time children, Tonya Springer, Erin Stark and Peterson Farms, Beth Gowell and Thomas Read Student Council, Ruth Tobin and Sewing Friendzies, Mariah Vandersluhs and her art class.
The Celebration of the Trees will be at Shelby Area District Library, 189 N. Maple St., Shelby; Thursday-Sunday, Dec 5-8; special library hours Sunday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Call 231-861-6453 for more info.