AUGUSTA — Brightly lit artificial Christmas trees, a couple of snowmen and even an 8-foot stepladder decorated as a holiday tree sparkled Friday in downtown Augusta as part of a display organized by the Augusta Downtown Alliance.

The trees, laden with gift certificates and surrounded by presents, are to be given away Sunday evening at the close of a raffle from which 20 percent of the proceeds will go to the Colonial Theatre renovation project and the remainder to the alliance itself.

Dubbed the 2017 River of Trees Festival, a view of the equally sparkling Kennebec River could be seen Friday through the windows along the side of the building at 211 Water St.

Gabe Mitchell, 5, of Gardiner, had no trouble making his choice. He pointed immediately to a giant snowman from Patenaude Family Dentistry.

“He looks cool and he has a candy cane in his hand,” Gabe said. The snowman’s other hand held a gift bag full of gift certificates.

His brother Nicky, 4, opted for a smaller tree, which he happened to be standing in front of.

“We just heard about it and decided to come check it out,” said their father, Matt Mitchell. He and the boys made a circuit of the room before stopping to put the red raffle tickets they had bought into the candy canes in front of their favorite trees.

Various Christmas songs played in the background as alliance supporters and other visitors made their way around the room.

Michael Hall, alliance director, said 25 businesses and organizations decorated trees in what is the second year of the event. Each prize tree was worth $500 to $1,000. Last year’s event netted $12,000, Hall said.

Waterville and Lewiston have similar events, Hall said.

This year some of the presents were stolen Tuesday from the Sukeforth Family Festival of Trees event at the Hathaway Creative Center in Waterville. However, most of the items were recovered, and police arrested the man they say was responsible.

The alliance’s share of that money and a separate 50/50 raffle is earmarked for improvements to the downtown. Hall said the group hopes to do such things as add new trash cans, new benches at Waterfront Park and more art. Last year the alliance helped get two murals installed downtown.

“We’d like to focus next year on doing some pedestrian-friendly elements and a lot of art,” he said. “It’s a great fundraiser. It brings people to the downtown area and it’s a great community event.”

Admission to the display where the raffle tickets can be purchased costs $2. The display will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Winners may pick up their trees early next week.

Kennebec Savings Bank chose the home-improvement theme with the ladder tree. Skowhegan Savings Bank leaned more to the outdoor theme with two pairs of snowshoes and other fun snow gear sitting at the base of their green tree. The three local KeyBank branches cooperated on an alternative-holiday theme of Halloween and a cemetery scene. They wanted to make sure the tree stood out, said J. R. Davis, manager of the Water Street branch. He said it was aimed at telling people, “Finances can be scary, but banking shouldn’t be.”

The Downtown Diner tree had a children’s kitchen, a doll, pairs of mittens, a plastic sled, and a number of other prizes surrounding its base.

Pizza Degree’s entry was a silver tree with bright orange garland and all the items needed to make a pizza, including a rolling pin, a measuring cup, a large bag of flour, a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer, a cookbook, a pizza pan, etc.

The Oakes & Parkhurst Glass tree had dark red ribbons and shiny ornaments that appeared to be made of stained glass.

Will Guerrette, who was volunteering at the event Friday, helped organize the Sun Tan City entry, a colorful tree that would fit neatly into a small space. “We tried to give people really good value,” he said, looking over at the beauty products for both men and women and the gift certificates.

Some local businesses cooperated on assembling an entry. For instance, Lisa’s Legit Burritos, Millpark Farmers’ Market and Otto’s on the River decorated a tree with gift certificates, pet toys, jellies, jams and other farm products.

A corkscrew served as the topper for the tree from Circa 1885 and Cushnoc Brewing. Katie Smith, who owns Circa 1885, stopped in to view the other entries and make her choice for her raffle tickets.

She said she started collecting ornaments for the tree in October, finding some of the small wine bottle ornaments at a Christmas store in Belfast and special ordering some others.

“It includes several re-purposed barware ornaments, beer bottle openers, reclaimed corks and some beer koozies,” she said.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.