Doug and Rita Sukeforth and their family have hosted the Sukeforth Family Festival of Trees around the holidays to benefit charities for several years, but have announced they will no longer host the festival. From left, Annette Marin, her husband, Bob, and parents Doug and Rita Sukeforth are seen Wednesday at RiverWalk at Head of Falls in Waterville. The Sukeforths encourage tree festival supporters to continue to support various charities, as they will too. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE — When giving to those less fortunate is in your blood, it’s hard to stop a fundraiser you’ve been hosting for many years.

That is the case with Doug and Rita Sukeforth and their family, which hosted the Sukeforth Family Festival of Trees around the holidays and a pig roast and auction for many years before that to benefit various charities.

The Sukeforths announced this week that to ensure everyone’s safety during the coronavirus pandemic, they will stop hosting the tree festival. But they hope businesses, volunteers, patrons and others who helped support it continue to give to the charities it benefited, such as Hospice Volunteers of Waterville Area, Maine Children’s Home and Senior Spectrum’s Meals on Wheels.

“If they will put what they were giving to the Festival of Trees and use it to give to the community, it would be very much appreciated,” Doug Sukeforth said Wednesday.

The family, including their daughters, Donna, Annette and Annette’s husband, Bob Marin, has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over many years for charitable causes, particularly those focusing on children, the elderly and families in need — and that will continue, they said.

“Our charity doesn’t stop,” Bob Marin said. “This is one avenue.”


Doug Sukeforth says giving to others is something his family instilled in him while he was growing up in Burkettville, in the tiny town of Appleton.

“My mom was always helping out locally,” he said. “It’s a family thing. Whether my mom was baking biscuits for the old people that needed help, or helping (in other ways), I think it’s in your genes.”

Bob Marin was raised in Clinton, where his family also was charitable. Both he and Doug Sukeforth have deep roots in the Masons and The Shriners groups, both of which give to charity. Marin, a Meals on Wheels volunteer, recalled his family had invaluable support from hospice volunteers who helped with the passing of his father in 2006.

Doug and Rita Sukeforth for 30 years owned the successful Mid-State Machine in Winslow and later, Waterville, before selling it in 1998. In 1985, the couple built and supported the Sukeforth Arena in Winslow, which was used for many years by both children and adults for all sorts of sports activities, including hockey and soccer, and even golf lessons.

“We built it to give back to the community,” Rita Sukeforth said.

The Sukeforth family announced this week that it will no longer sponsor the Sukeforth Family Festival of Trees holiday fundraiser. The family said it will continue to support charities in other ways and encouraged other tree festival sponsors to continue their giving as well. Christmas trees can be seen at The Elm during the fifth annual Sukeforth Family Festival of Trees in Waterville on Nov. 23, 2019. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

She became emotional Wednesday when talking about the tree festival, as it was not only a way to give back to the community, but also a magical holiday event that brought people together. Businesses decorated trees and donated thousands of dollars worth of gifts, and those who patronized it bought tickets to take a chance at winning the trees and gifts.


“We would like to say a big ‘thank you’ for our tree sponsors for the past years, our volunteers, and all the people that came out and supported us,” she said. “We wouldn’t have had successful years without all of you.”

The festival was held at the Hathaway Creative Center from 2015 to 2017 and at The Elm from 2018 to 2019. Before that, the Sukeforths held an annual pig roast and auction fundraiser from 2007-14 at their camp on the Solon-Bingham town line.

“We had a family meeting of all who could attend and voted to not have a festival this year,” Rita Sukeforth said. “We didn’t know what to expect from this virus in the fall with masks and limits of people in the hall at once.”

She said the family heard from a lot of people who were disappointed the festival was not held last year as well because of the pandemic, as it was a great way to start the holiday season and see old friends. She recalled one year a man came up to her and asked if she remembered him.

“He looked familiar but I said, ‘Sorry — no.’ It was an old neighbor from my old home town, Appleton, from 50 years ago.”

The Sukeforths have two daughters besides Annette and Donna — Pam and Yvonne — as well as five grandsons, a granddaughter, four great-granddaughters and two great-grandsons. All the children help out with the family fundraising, having learned from watching their parents and grandparents.

“Hopefully, they’ll all continue on, doing it in some way,” Doug Sukeforth said. “There are many ways to give to the needy and they’ll find their ways. We don’t have to coax them into doing it.”

Annette Marin said she is grateful to her parents “for always instilling in us to give back.”

The family said they are thankful to both The Elm on College Avenue and Hathaway Creative Center on Water Street  for allowing the festival to be held there, where there was plenty of space and parking. The many volunteers and businesses that took part also were invaluable to the effort they said.

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