Merry bright

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Several local residents spent Thursday decorating Christmas trees, which this time of year is nothing unusual.However, their adorned evergreens were for the fourth annual Festival of Trees in Washougal. The event, held Friday and Saturday at Hathaway Elementary School and organized by the Washougal Lions Club, featured 19 decorated trees. These were auctioned off to raise money for local schools.

Volunteer decorators enjoyed the opportunity to get into the holiday spirit while using their creative talents.

Bridgette McCarthy, Natalie Garner, Danielle Smyth and Jeannine Jones enjoyed bedazzling their tree with Canyon Creek Middle School colors of red and silver.

It is McCarthy’s second year decorating a tree for the festival.

“It was really fun last year, but even more so this time,” she said. “I really enjoy helping the schools and the people I am working with.”

Added Garner, “I like decorating the tree and coming up with different ideas.”

Cassi Marshall is an administrative assistant for the Washougal School District and serves on the festival committee.

The district office staff rely heavily on the creative genius of payroll officer Tonette Sweet, according to Marshall.

“Our first two years, she envisioned trees that turned into characters,“ she said. “We had a white flocked tree shaped into a snowman the first year and an angel tree with lighted wire-framed wings the second year. I think we all enjoy the creative outlet and seeing what the other decorators come up with.”

This year, the district office staff created a “Whoville Tree,” complete with Dr. Suess-inspired decorations, Grinch toys and a DVD of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

The Washougal High School Readers Club has been involved with the festival for three years.

Fran McCarty, an assistant librarian who supervises the group, enjoys the excitement the project generates among the students.

“I have no youngsters at home and so this helps put me in the holiday mode also,” she said. “I try to find a theme that is not copyrighted and still gives us decorating ideas.”

This year’s theme was “I’ll be home for Christmas…If only in my dreams.”

“We are dedicating it to the troops who can’t be home for the holidays,” Mccarty said. “The club also sponsored a card drive to send to the troops. We sent 190 cards off.”

The West Columbia Gorge Humane Society, a no-kill shelter in Washougal, got into the holiday spirit with its “Whisker Wonderland,” tree.

“One of our wonderful volunteers, Jean Dougherty, decorated our tree for us this

year,” said Heidi Murphy, community outreach chair.

Murphy was unable to help because of a last minute late meeting.

“Jean was able to step in and marshal volunteers from her garden club to help,” Murphy said. “Jean is incredible, volunteering to do this while recovering from a surgery. Our inspiration for the tree comes from our animals that we serve.”

In addition to trees, community members had the opportunity to bid on 42 auction baskets, donated by local businesses.

The trees were donated by Art Malfait of Washougal River Christmas Trees.

The event raised a total of $7,500, a rough estimate.

“The generosity of our business community has been wonderful,” said Chuck Carpenter, Lions Club director and festival chair. “The event exceeded expectations in all ways. It was a tremendous success for our community and for our schools.”

Marshall said the festival is fun, but also inspiring.

“It’s amazing to see the community come together like this for such a fun event that benefits Washougal schools,” she said. “We love that.”