Festival of Trees and Trains Coming Soon

Kathy Clayton

The Ashland Beacon


   The hint of winter weather grazing the tri-state this week is sure to bring thoughts of the upcoming holiday season. For the Paramount Woman Association’s Festival of Trees and Trains Committee, the holidays have been fresh on their minds for months.

   “The 35th Annual Festival of Trees and Trains will open Friday, Nov. 22, and run through Sunday, Dec. 1,” said committee Chairperson Tamme Grubb. “This year’s theme is All That Glitters. You can expect to see the usual gorgeous trees and wreaths, along with gift packages to bid on, and raffles for various prizes.” Grubb said that a new art category has been added this year, where creative types have painted and decorated bowling pins into festive creations, which can be bid on for purchase.

   Grubb noted that the committee began organizing the enormous effort before summer began. “It takes an army of people to organize this event, one of Ashland’s signature holiday activities,” she said. The group pursues businesses and individuals to decorate trees, pounding the pavement seeking businesses to support the event, which is one of the Paramount Arts Center’s biggest fundraisers.

   “Many people aren’t aware that we fund 100% of the school tours that come through,” Grubb noted. “No school group pays to come through and view the trees.” Businesses, organizations, or individuals who wish to make a donation to the FOTT committee to fund these free activities can visit the Festival of Trees and Trains Facebook page, or contact any committee member.

   There are several categories of holiday trees on display during the event, including categories for schools and Boy and Girl Scouts, which are decorated by school staff, students and scout troops. “The FOTT committee provides the trees free of charge to these groups, so we are always in need of funding for this outreach.”

   As always, the Festival of Trees will feature local musicians, schools, and churches entertaining onstage as an accompaniment to the activities. “We will also have our children’s gift shop open, and our ever-popular vendor’s gift shop in the Marquee Room off the front lobby,” Grubb noted.

   Besides the holiday magic of the brightly decorated trees and wreaths, the festival includes free activities for children. On both Saturdays of the event, children can have cocoa with Santa. There are activities as well as free cocoa and cookies. New for kids this year, and free with admission, is an afternoon activity geared toward those interested in the popular Harry Potter books and movies.

   “Hollyhocks School of Wonder is a children’s event that will be Wednesday, Nov. 27, from 12-3,” said FOTT committee member Tish Maynard, who is the organizer of this special event. “This idea came when we were talking about hosting a princess or superhero event. We thought those were fairly commonplace and we wanted something that might be a draw for both genders and all ages.”

   That idea segued into ideas inspired by Harry Potter. “I love visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal in Orlando,” Maynard said. “I tell people all the time I could just go sit and exist there. It’s completely immersive. I wanted to bring that kind of feeling here, but also in a way that would facilitate entertaining children. That’s when I thought it would be fun to offer a ‘school’ visit.”

   Kids are invited to come to the open house and see what it would be like to study all things wondrous and fantastic, all taking place on the stage at the Paramount. Before entering the event, ‘students’ are encouraged to visit Tolliver’s Wand Shop and select a wand to take with them. “There are volunteers currently working on making a limited supply of homemade wands to take home,” she said.

   “From there, they will encounter actors who will remain in character as professors at the school,” Maynard explained. “Kids can stop by classroom stations on the stage and converse with the ‘professors’ and participate in a related activity or game. These will include Potions, Charms, Musicology and Care of Wondrous Creatures.”

   Children will be encouraged to engage in imaginative play with the professors, “as if they really do exist in an alternate world for a little while,” she said. “Once they’ve completed their tour of Hollyhocks, they will have an exit interview with the headmistress and receive their acceptance letter.

   “It’s all just make-believe on a large scale for kids to come be carefree and have fun. They’re encouraged to come in costume if they wish. They can dress in robes and hats, dress as fairies or unicorns, or anything of a fantastic nature.”

   “So mark your calendars, and plan to get your holiday season off to a glittering start,” Grubb said.