WATERVILLE — Seven-year-old Hunter Rose Mawhinney floated around the Festival of Trees at the Waterville Elks Lodge on Saturday, admiring all the trees sparkling with colored lights and flanked by loads of presents.

She had already dropped several tickets into a box next to a pink Barbie tree, hoping to win not only the tree, but also many Barbie dolls, a Barbie car and other paraphernalia to go with it.

“I have a Barbie house at my house!” Mawhinney, of Benton, declared.

She was visiting the tree festival with her grandmother, Nellie Raymond, also of Benton.

“She’s been coming every year since she was born,” Raymond said of Mawhinney. “It’s kind of like a tradition.”

The festival, which opened Friday, is hosted by the Alfond Youth & Community Center and Central Maine Community Betterment Collaborative, a nonprofit arm of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce and Central Maine Growth Council. It will continue from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, and open again from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 24 and 25, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 26 at the lodge, located at 76 Industrial Road. The drawing for tree winners will be held after closing on Nov. 26.

Parker Jane Carey, 2, points out a tree to her “Pop,” Danny Burgess, during Saturday’s Festival of Trees event at the Elks Lodge in Waterville. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

Chamber President Kimberly N. Lindlof, who also is executive director of the Growth Council, said Saturday that last year’s festival netted $180,000.

“This event is just loved and embraced by the community,” she said. “We’re so fortunate.”

Businesses and organizations decorated some 50 themed trees with thousands of dollars’ worth of corresponding presents. The themes included fishing, the beach, cooking, sewing, hunting, recreation and home goods.

The chamber was giving away free children’s books as part of its early childhood literacy program, made possible by grants from Marden’s Surplus & Salvage and Sappi. Lindlof said books also will be given away during Kringleville activities, which begin Nov. 25 in the downtown.

Saturday’s festivalgoers strolled the aisles of trees to the sounds of Christmas carols. Karen Damren of Belgrade was admiring a tree with gifts including everything from canning equipment to a greenhouse, chicken coop and an electric bicycle. She dropped a few tickets into the box next to it.

Larry Searles and his daughter, Brianne, of Skowhegan, said they have come to the festival every year for several years and his wife once won a beach-themed tree and gifts. He said he spends $100 on tickets every year, as the festival is for a good cause.

Area businesses, including Maine General Health and New Dimensions Federal Credit Union, donate and decorate trees for the annual Festival of Tree at the Elks Lodge in Waterville. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

Gary Poulin, chairman of the chamber’s tree festival committee, was busy helping to sign people in at the front door. He has been involved with the festival since its inception several years ago.

“Between yesterday and this morning, we’ve had about 3,000 people,” Poulin said. “There’s a group that came in from New Hampshire — their first time here.”

Poulin said that usually he is inside the festival itself, keeping a finger on the pulse of what’s happening, but a volunteer couldn’t make it Saturday, so he was filling in at the door.

“It’s my pet, so I like to make sure I’m available for anything that needs to be done,” he said of the event.

On Friday, residents of nursing homes and other residential facilities visited the festival, free of charge, according to Lindlof.

Admission for those 12 and older is $2 per person and free for those younger than 12. A 50-50 drawing also is held, with a maximum payout of $10,000 daily.

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