By Emma Bowen Meyer
For The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
Months of anticipation, planning and elbow grease have resulted in a ballroom full of trees trimmed with bright colors and fanciful trinkets. Themes range from whimsical to thoughtful and from sparkling to simple, but each tree is a treasure.
“It is so interesting to see all the shapes and sizes of the trees,” said Gayle Burris, executive director of the Paramount Theatre Centre. “Not only do we have a lot of new designers this year, but a lot of our veterans are back, too. It’s a very good mix. This year businesses and individuals also volunteered to decorate sections of the building.”
“This year has been very unusual because we have 42 new designers,” said Paulette Catt, Festival of Trees director. “We usually have six to 12 new designers. It has been wonderful working together. I’m really going to miss the fellowship.”
Catt trimmed four trees herself with different themes.
“I don’t know where the ideas come from,” she said with a laugh. “But the serious designers already know what they are doing next year and are ready to go shopping at the after-Christmas sales.”
This year, 52 trees, not including several wreaths and table-top trees, were donated to the annual festival, representing the efforts of area businesses, schools, small groups, families and individuals. Gathering the community around the historic location is one of the primary goals of Festival of Trees.
“We want to involve as many facets of the community as possible,” said Burris. “We keep the costs affordable for families. This fundraising events keeps us going for about six months and allows us to offer arts, entertainment and community events in this beautiful historic place.”
High school jazz bands, swing choirs and dance studios usher the next generation onto the stage. The chili cook-off raises funds for the firehouse, while the style show supports the Historic Gruenewald House. The Children’s Magical Christmas allows the Anderson Noon Exchange Club to raise money for the Exchange Club Family Resource Center child abuse prevention programs.
“This anticipated event has become a tradition,” said Burris. “It’s a great opportunity for the community to celebrate the holiday season and to be proud of something in our city.”
Only 11 other theaters similar to the Paramount are left in the nation. Restoration to save the historic site began about 22 years ago.
Beginning the event with a successful gala on Saturday night, 400 attendees filed into the ballroom, marking the highest attendance in history. Tickets were sold out for two weeks.
“I love getting the positive messages from the community, from participants and from organizations we work with,” Burris added. “When they bid on a tree, I get a feeling that we doing something right. They are saying, ‘We just love this place and like what you are doing to keep it around.’ ”