Deck the halls with cheerful trees

The 2016 Festival of Trees brought in more than $20,000 for Washougal schools through auctioned-off trees and gift basket raffles.

This "creative cat lady" tree, from the 2016 Festival of Trees in Washougal, included handmade ornaments from quilters all over the United States.

Washougal School District office staff members decorate a construction themed tree for the 2016 Festival of Trees. Proceeds from the event benefits Washougal schools.

Ornaments on the 2016 Washougal Festival of Trees' construction themed tree included gift cards, a level, gloves, measuring tape, framed construction photos and these unique ornaments made from nuts and bolts.

The 2016 Washougal Festival of Trees is pictured here. This year's event will take place from 4 to 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 1, and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 2, at Hathaway Elementary School, 630 24th St., Washougal. Contributed photo by Rene Carroll

The 2016 Washougal Festival of Trees, pictured here, raised $20,000 for Washogual schools. (Post-Record file photos)

Ivan Gering, former owner of Papa’s Ice Cream Parlor in Washougal, once envisioned a fun-filled event that highlighted local businesses and raised money for Washougal schools.

He decided to make his vision come to life in 2010, when he gathered a committee to host the first Washougal Festival of Trees event, which has evolved into an annual holiday season event in Washougal.

The festival has outgrown the small corner of Washougal Town Square where it began, and has gone from raising around $2,000 in its first year to its record of $20,000 last year.

This year’s eighth annual Washougal Festival of Trees event will ignite the holiday cheer on Friday, Dec. 1, from 4 to 8 p.m., at Hathaway Elementary School, 630 24th St., Washougal, and features a raffle and silent auction for donated Christmas trees and goods from local businesses.

On Saturday, Dec. 2, the festival will be filled with live music and refreshments, and will last from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and feature $3 photos with Santa and a $3 breakfast sponsored by Excavator Rental Services.

Chuck Carpenter, Festival of Trees committee chair, said local businesses have donated more than 50 gift baskets and other goods, which will be put into a raffle. The raffle tickets will be sold for $1 each at the festival.

The festival will host chamber type performances that will send Christmas carols throughout the building. The performers are an array of small group artists, choirs and student musicians, he said.

Carpenter said there are two parts of the festival he is looking forward to the most.

The first is when the Festival of Trees first opens and he sees his fellow community members fill the gym at Hathaway, either decorating or enjoying the various trees.

Second is when all the raffles and auctions halt and he gets to see people excitedly leave the gym with their new trees or goodies.

The Festival of Trees committee is in need of volunteers from noon to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 29, to load and set up the holiday trees. Carpenter said this will be a long and challenging day, and he welcomes anyone who wants to help. Volunteers should show up to Hathaway Elementary at noon that day.

The committee also is seeking people to help organize gift baskets, write and type basket and tree descriptions, update the Facebook page, run the raffles and wrap the trees with shrink wrap.

The Washougal Lions sponsor the annual event and proceeds benefit Washougal schools. Washougal River Christmas Trees donates the trees.

Each school in Washougal contributes a decorated tree, and the school receives the amount of money that the tree sells for at the auction. The remaining money will be divided evenly amongst the schools, according to the Festival of Trees’ website.

Individual schools determine how the money can best benefit its students. In the past, the festival has helped area schools buy science supplies, fund fieldtrip scholarships, purchase art materials, provide online reading programs, host a science night, put on a math masters event and get school assembly speakers.

The festival is sponsored by Miller Manufacturing, Country Financial, Columbia River Realty, Washougal River Christmas Trees, Fireworks Photography, IQ Credit Union, Columbia Litho, International Order of Odd Fellows and McDonald Excavating.