Hayden tradition benefits community

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Traditionally, the Holiday Tree Festival and Auction has been the Hayden Heritage Center's largest fund-raiser.

The money brought in through the auction of a few Christmas trees designed by volunteers kept the doors of Hayden's history museum open. This year, however, the museum is guaranteed funding through the 0.3 mill property tax passed in 2003 to support museums and historic preservation countywide. Like the Tread of Pioneers Museum directors in Steamboat Springs, the Hayden Heritage Center directors no longer need to hold their breath during their Tree Festival. Instead, museum volunteers can stand back and enjoy helping other organizations in town raise the money they need.

"After the community was so generous, we didn't feel like we should ask for more money," said Museum Board President Judy Green. "We pulled our horns back this year."

Instead of decorating several trees for auction as they usually do, museum volunteers created a couple of small centerpieces and left the glory -- and the money -- to others.

Sunday was the 16th Hayden Tree Festival and Auction. For $5 to $10, depending on the submission, any youth or service organization could decorate a tree, wreath or centerpiece to be auctioned at the event.

The Heritage Center keeps the entry fee. Any other funds raised through the auction go directly to the organization that created a holiday decoration. With some trees selling from $150 to $500, no one could argue about the return on their investments.

In 2003, the fund-raiser brought in $5,000 for area nonprofits.

On Sunday morning, the Routt County Fairgrounds exhibition hall was filled with people putting the last-minute touches on their Christmas trees.

This year's participants included Routt County Cattlewomen, Destination Imagination, Hayden Middle School Student Leadership, Brownie Troop #217 and the Rocking A Scholarship.

The Hayden High School cheerleaders showed up around 10 a.m. with boxes of decorations and a vision to create a Hawaiian Christmas. They cut apart a dozen flower leis and tied them together to form a chain around the tree.

They hung seashells and teddy bears with grass skirts on the branches and added a few fish, a pineapple for the top and a grass skirt around the bottom of the tree. This is the second year the Hayden cheerleading squad has participated in the tree festival.

This year, the squad will use the money they raise to buy a uniform for new cheerleader Chris Willingham.

"We've never had a boy (on the squad) before," Barnes said. "But our pyramids and our stunts have gotten better since he joined."

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