WATERVILLE — One would expect the Waterville Opera House to be creative with a holiday tree — and the organization didn’t disappoint.

The Opera House tree at the Sukeforth Family Festival of Trees, elegant and regal, is crafted from white play script pages curled in the form of branches from top to bottom and accented with holly berries and a red paper star.

Some lucky festival-goer will take the tree and all the presents beneath it — gift cards, movies, wine and other goodies — home after the winners of the 73 trees in the festival at Hathaway Creative Center are announced Nov. 27, the last day of the event.

“It’s beautiful, it’s awesome,” Sue Noel, 64, of Waterville, said Saturday of the festival.

Noel and her husband, Bob, 75, were attending the event for the first time and were enamored by all of the creativity displayed.

Sue Noel worked as a stitcher at the former C.F. Hathaway & Co. shirt factory for 28 years before retiring many years ago. Saturday was the first time she had been back in the former factory office space where the festival is held, she said. Her husband called the festival “different.”


“They’ve got some beautiful, beautiful trees here,” he said.

The event, which raises money for Hospice Volunteers of Waterville Area and Spectrum Generations’ Meals on Wheels, features trees decked out for the holidays and carrying special themes, including holiday baking, camping, toys, beach fun and other activities. Businesses, institutions, nonprofit organizations, families and individuals donate the trees with gifts to accompany them valued in the thousands of dollars. Patrons pay $2 to enter the festival — children 12 and under are admitted free — and may buy tickets for 50 cents each and place them in buckets next to trees they wish to win. Also, 50-50 drawings are held during the festival.

The festival was held for the first time last year and was a hit, garnering funds in the six figures.

Doug and Rita Sukeforth had for many years hosted a pig roast in Solon to raise money for hospice and the meal program, but decided last year to follow the Shriners’ tradition in Bangor and Lewiston of holding a festival of trees, according to their daughter, Annette Sukeforth Marin.

Marin said during a much-needed break Saturday that her father and her husband, Bob, are both Shriners. The family started organizing the Waterville festival in May, she said.

“This year, we’re actually counting people coming in, so yesterday there were 939, and at last count a couple of hours ago there were over 600 and it’s 1 p.m.,” she said.


Marin was sitting with her daughter, Jessica Marin, and sister, Donna Sukeforth, in Santa’s Snack Shop down the hall from the festival where people were eating American chop suey, white bean chicken chili, shrimp and roasted corn chowder, hot dogs and other dishes. The Sukeforths and Marins were smiling, though they had been on their feet for hours.

“I say we’re very tired, but it’s fun,” Jessica said. “It’s fun to see the joy.”

Her mother added: “It’s very rewarding.”

People of all ages came from near and far to visit the festival.

Becky Buck and her children, Nolan, 7; Ian, 4; and Rowan, 17 months; traveled from their home in Bowdoinham about 45 minutes away.

“I love the wellness trees. That’s something I hadn’t seen before,” Buck said. “The essential oils, exercise equipment — that’s very unique.”


Nolan placed tickets in the bucket next to “Man Cave,” Central Maine Motors Auto Group’s tree that has a bar table and stools, television, popcorn and gum-ball machines and other gifts. Ian placed tickets in the bucket for Flynn & Co. Real Estate, as its tree had toys, including Legos, around it.

“My boys are requesting Lego trees. There are some that have a few Legos under them,” Buck said, adding that they hope someone will enter a Lego tree in the festival next year.

“This is for such a great cause. I like that it is done for local charities,” she said.

Doug’s Garage of Benton has a beach theme for its tree, complete with folding beach chairs and umbrella, a cooler, beach balls and other items. Hannaford’s giant white tree with red tinsel garland is flanked with many bags of holiday foods and snacks. Pizza Degree has an orange tree with silver bulbs, a Kitchen Aid mixer, pizza ingredients and gift cards. Whittemore & Sons’ tree features a Jotul wood stove, a stack of firewood, an ash bucket and other items. GHM Insurance Agency’s tree, with a parks and recreation theme, is decorated with Maine-shaped ornaments and animals. Gifts with the tree include park passes, a lobster trap, Maine beer, maple syrup, honey, cookbooks and other Maine-related items.

Former state Rep. Marilyn Canavan, of Waterville, was strolling through the festival, admiring the trees before purchasing tickets to place in buckets.

“They’re all lovely,” she said. “Now that I’ve seen them all I’m going to buy tickets because I think there are some good choices here.”


Santa Claus was greeting children and getting his picture taken with them. He said a lot of children had visited him and were asking for American Girl dolls, remote control vehicles and other gifts for Christmas.

“We’ve had a pretty good run all day long,” he said.

The festival will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday and then re-open at 10 a.m. Friday and remain open until after the 6 p.m. Parade of Lights so that people attending the parade and Kringleville may also attend the tree festival. The festival also will be open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 27. Names of tree winners will be drawn after the festival closes that day, and winners will be contacted by telephone.

Amy Calder — 861-9247


Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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