FAIRFIELD — With the flick of a switch Friday evening, the 25th annual Good Will-Hinckley Festival of Trees will light up Prescott Hall in a ceremony officially ushering in the Christmas holiday season.

Twenty-three decorated Christmas trees — plus this year, 23 miniature Christmas trees with presents under them to be won in a raffle — will all be part of the spectacle beginning about 7 p.m. Friday. Doors open at 6. A performance by the Bell Ringers will follow.

Admission to the tree-lighting ceremony costs $5 and includes dessert. Children under 12 get in free.

“This is the first time since I’ve been here that we’re doing the lighting,” Michelle Theriault, Good Will-Hinckley development coordinator, said of the Friday night ceremony.

Ken Coville, president of Good Will-Hinckley, said all the lights in Prescott Hall will go down and once everyone is seated, all the Christmas tree lights will go on.

“We’ll have this room completely dark, and as soon as we have every one in, we’re going to arrange for a young person to come up and throw a switch and all the lights come on,” Coville said.

Coville said the Festival of Trees tradition at Good Will-Hinckley started 25 years ago when Ann Marden, wife of Justice Donald H. Marden, a Good Will-Hinckley board member, came up with the idea.

“She worked with Jim Henniger, and they established the first Festival of Trees,” Coville said from inside the hall, festooned Thursday with lights and trees and two seats on stage for Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus. “Over the course of the whole week, we will have thousands of people who attend. Not only do we have the general public, but we have school groups who come in during the week, nursing home groups coming and community groups coming in during the daytime.”

Coville said there will be entertainment during the evening hours, beginning Friday night and continuing throughout the week.

Theriault said she assisted with sponsorships for the festival and has a teal-and-purple tree of her own in the display for suicide awareness. Other trees in the festival are decorated by area groups, business and individuals.

“It’s beautiful,” Theriault said of all the trees and lights filling Prescott Hall. “It’s always beautiful. Usually we have 3,000 to 4,000 people, and hopefully this year even more, because we have more entertainment this year and the craft fair is back. We haven’t had a craft fair in a couple of years, so I think that will be well attended. Most people say this gets them in the spirit.”

The festival runs through Dec. 16 with events and entertainment almost every day.

This Saturday the festival is open from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. with crafts, vendors and raffles. The Triple C Dance Team, which has a jazzy Mardi Gras Christmas tree in the display, is scheduled to perform at 10 a.m. Saturday, and Kennebec Valley Chordsmen will perform at 2 p.m.

On Sunday, a public brunch is scheduled to be served from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tickets cost $25 each and must be bought in advance.

Pictures with Santa Claus are scheduled for 4 to 6 p.m. Monday. A down-home dinner is set for 5 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

The Festival of Trees this year is sponsored by Sappi North America.

For a full schedule of events, go to www.gwh.org.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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