Thursday, November 20, 2003
On Nov. 4, the residents of Routt County approved a 0.3-mill property tax to support museums and historic societies, ensuring the future of the Tread of Pioneers Museum. To thank the community, this year's Festival of Trees will be free to Routt County residents.
This year will be the last time the museum will need to rely on the proceeds from the Festival of Trees -- the museum's largest fund-raiser -- for its survival.
The new property tax will take effect in 2004.
"We just need to make sure we can make it through the first quarter," said the museum's executive director, Marty Woodbury. "But we won't let the Festival of Trees go away. This fund-raiser has always been important, but this is also a community event.
"This event belongs to everyone."
As tree decorators filled the halls of the museum Monday and Tuesday, snow was flying outside. Woodbury couldn't be happier. She remembers years past when sidewalks were dry, the sun was shining and the weather made it hard to get everyone in the Christmas spirit.
JoAnn Lathrop and Pat Zabel were busy at work, hanging lights, fluffing trees and organizing decorators. Lathrop and Zabel have volunteered for the Festival of Trees since the first one nine years ago.
The first couple of years, the festival was held in the lodge of the Howelsen Ski Area.
"We had one day to set up the trees, hold a party and take it down," Lathrop said. "It was a nightmare. I don't know why we didn't hold it at the museum. We just didn't think of it."
Now, volunteers have a week to set up the trees and another week to enjoy the fruits of their labors.
This year, the Festival of Trees will feature 28 trees. Vectra Bank helps the museum pay for the purchase of artificial trees, and members of the community sign up to decorate a tree.
"Most of the decorators started planning their trees months ago," Woodbury said. "They want to be chosen for the People's Choice Award."
Decorators are reimbursed up to $100 for supplies, "but that doesn't include their time," Woodbury said. "And they usually spend more than that, because they want their trees to be gorgeous. This event is a huge labor of love."
The trees were purchased by businesses Thursday night for display in lobbies across town. Names of purchasers were put into a hat.
Every year, the first name drawn gets first choice from the trees.
"All the decorators sit there hoping that someone will pick their tree," Woodbury said.
The Festival of Trees usually raises about $14,000 a year for the Tread of Pioneers Museum. The money goes toward such things as paying utilities and the salaries of employees.
Though museum expenses will be covered by the new museum tax, "board members feel the Festival of Trees is a nice community event," Woodbury said.
"The character or certain aspects may change in the future, but we will never get rid of it."
--To reach Autumn Phillips call 871-4210
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