Steamboat’s annual Festival of Trees lights up Saturday |

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Steamboat’s annual Festival of Trees lights up Saturday

Candice Bannister

Candice Bannister, executive director of the Tread of Pioneers Museum, peeks out from behind the "Giving Tree," which was decorated by LIFT-UP of Routt County for this year's Festival of Trees. The annual Tread of Pioneers Museum fundraiser is scheduled to run Saturday through Nov. 19 this year, and is open and free to the public from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.
John F. Russell

— It's never too early to decorate Christmas trees. In fact, ornaments and garlands are a November tradition at the Tread of Pioneers Museum, whose 18th annual Festival of Trees fundraiser opens Saturday.

The museum’s primary fundraiser of the year features 18 lit Christmas trees decorated in various themes by a multitude of community groups and businesses. Each of the 18 trees has its own personality and heritage representing unique segment of the Steamboat community, and on Thursday, two groups were settled into the museum with boxes of ornaments and decorations.

John Piret, senior vice president of Festival of Trees sponsor Yampa Valley Bank, said he was drawing from his own past in decorating the tree, basing it on his time in the Bayou complete with fish baskets, crocodile toys and marine-inspired decorations.

"I felt I needed to," Piret said about decorating the tree on behalf of Yampa Valley Bank. "We've always loved (the Festival of Trees). We get to support the museum … and this year we decided to be a little more involved."

Betsy McGrew was decorating a tree for Adult and Pediatric Specialists, but she's also a volunteer at the museum and has experienced Festivals of Trees in years past.

"It's been really great," said McGrew, who's decorating her tree with wheat and paper stars in honor of her Swedish heritage. "It's like a jumpstart on the holiday."

Other themes range from classic Christmas style, like Strings Music Festival's quaint tree with drum ornaments, to nontraditional decorations like the hats, scarves and mittens that adorn LIFT-Up of Routt County's “Giving Tree.” Some trees were decorated by local elementary school students and some by interior designers. Each of the designs began with a simple, pre-lit synthetic tree donated by Ace at the Curve.

The trees will be on display from Nov. 10 to 19, after which the sponsor for each tree will collect them to either display in their business or to donate to a needy family this holiday season.

The fundraiser is a little different this year. In the midst of a renovation project, the museum has been closed and will return to closure again after the 19th. But the renovation project is far enough along for tree viewers to also catch a glimpse of the remodeled gallery area that will soon house new exhibits.

The museum will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day during the festival, with free admission for everyone.

"There's not a lot going on this time of year, so it's a great thing to have for the shoulder season," museum Executive Director Candice Bannister said. "But my favorite part about it is the collaboration. It's really a community coming together for fun, filling their needs and helping the museum."

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email