Local schools, businesses shine bright at Festival of Trees

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 29, 2004

ASHLAND, Ky. - Dancing Santas, chugging choo- choo trains and delicate glass ornaments vie for attention with snowmen, reindeer and angels at the Paramount Arts Center these days.

In all its brilliant colors, the 20th annual Festival of Trees at the Ashland arts center opened Saturday and will continue through Sunday, Nov. 28.

"It's incredible," Paramount Arts Center Director Kathy Timmons said as she viewed the collection Thursday evening at a VIP/media party. "You get this kind of spiritual feeling when you walk through them. And the more you look, the more you see - especially the school trees. They amaze me."

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Santa Claus will not likely forget any Rock Hill Elementary School students this year. Their names are on a list the jolly fat man is holding as he slides down a chimney, his bag of toys ready nearby. The Rock Hill Elementary Parent Teacher Organization sponsored that entry.

But Santa was nowhere near a snowflake, lazily perched on a flotation underneath Dr. Laura Rush's entry. "A Caribbean Christmas"

featured little bamboo parasols and sea shells on its branches.

Several trees had a patriotic theme, including an entry from the Coal Grove Freez-ette.

"It looks like fireworks," Pat Collier, of Grayson, Ky., said as she stopped and gazed at "With Liberty and Justice For All," the

Freez-ette entry. "It's patriotic."

"It's beautiful," her friend, Teresa O'Brien, also of Grayson, said. "It looks like a a celebration."

One of the more unusual entries is the "Hats Off To The Paramount: What A Celebration." Sponsored by Laura B's Daycare, of Ashland, the tree is decorated with shiny black top hats, feather boas, festive silver sprays and strings of pearls. At the foot of the tree, shiny mirrors bear champagne flutes and bottles of bubbly.

Ironton Middle School students kept their theme close to heart and home: "A Safari Christmas, Kenya Spot the Tiger?" tree featured tigers, laminated paper chains in African prints and bunches of raffia.

In addition to the trees, gingerbread houses are displayed at the foot of the PAC stage, most of them confections of local schools. Dawson-Bryant High School students showed their skills in a half a dozen gingerbread entries, including one that took some visitors by surprise.

"What is it?" one elderly woman asked as she passed by Dawson-Bryant's gingerbread version of the Ohio State University football stadium. When she learned what it was, the woman responded, "Oh, that's different!" The "people" in the stadium were actually medium-sized red, white and pink candy beads.

The money raised goes to pay for various programs at the Paramount throughout the year. Festival chairperson Pamela Jones, a relative newcomer to the area, said she learned at a recent visit to an international Festival of Trees conference earlier this year that the local event has developed a nationwide reputation over the years as a winning tradition.

"It is one of the most successful (Festival of Trees) in the United States. People could not believe this small town is able to raise $40,000 a year for 19 years. That tells you this is truly a community event," Jones said.