Historical Society, YWCA create Schenectady’s Festival of Trees

Forty Christmas trees are decorated in the holiday spirit at the Festival of Trees at both the Schen

At one time, choirs of angels were going to swing and sing on the branches of an evergreen tree at the Schenectady County Historical Society. But celestial wings from seraphim and cherubim were voted out. Terrestrial wings from robins and bluebirds were voted in.

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To view a complete list of area festivals, click HERE.

“The kids immediately went to Noah’s Ark,” said Barb Wengrovius, Christian education teacher at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Schenectady. “They wanted animals and rainbows and storm clouds.”

Birds, bears, alligators, tigers and even a snake are on the tree that young parishioners helped design for the society, which is teaming up with the Schenectady YWCA for the groups’ second annual Festival of Trees.

The season for bright lights, candy canes and tinsel on evergreens has arrived. Arbor holiday celebrations also have been scheduled for Saratoga Springs, Queensbury, Albany, Amsterdam, Ballston Spa and Schoharie, among other places.

Two locations

About 30 trees have been decorated at the society, 32 Washington Ave. Another 10 are shining at the YWCA, just a quick walk up the street at 44 Washington. The show begins Friday, and runs through Sunday, Dec. 7. The $5 admission charge for adults (and $2 for children aged 6 through 12) secures passage into both places.

“It’s a great way to get into the holiday spirit,” said Kathryn Weller, the society’s curator of collections. “It’s a great way to also learn about your own community. That’s one of the neat things about our festival — most of our trees are sponsored by various community members.”

Other neat things are the creative decorations. On the Mabee Family tree, lines of lighted cardinals sit on branches on the aptly named “Cardinals for Christmas” tree. Turtledoves, woodpeckers, robins and pheasants keep the red birds company. Strings and bunches of berries are other crimson accessories.

“Bird” is also the word at the Price Chopper Supermarkets’ tree. A large blue peacock with bright blue feathers sits at the top, surveying the room atop a throne of green and blue ornaments.

Delft ornaments — white and cobalt blue miniature horns, rocking horses, windmills and shoes made in the Netherlands — are on two white-lighted trees and offer looks into Schenectady’s Dutch past. The small gifts on branches are for sale; all visitors have to do is pluck and purchase.

The society’s Christmas collection is surrounded by history. Stern and sincere stares come from the walls, home to portraits of Catherine Douw Ten Eyck Mynderse — she was married to Schenectady physician Barent Mynderse during the mid 1800s — and prominent 19th century landowner James Rosa. The society’s permanent residents will “watch” the trees day and night.

Mantels and the society’s staircase have been decorated in greens and garlands by members of Schenectady County’s Hugh Platt Garden Club.

“Our building really lends itself to these types of decorations, to this type of program,” Weller said. “It’s a beautiful historic building. . . . It really fits that formal ambience.”

Nancy Edmonds and Vaughn Nevin of Schenectady placed gold, heavy paper stars on a tall tree. Each star on the “Christmas Tree of Old Schenectady” features a celebrated man or woman from the city’s past. Longtime historian and Schenectady Gazette writer Larry Hart is among the luminaries. So is Ernest Claiborne, superintendent of service at Schenectady’s former Van Curler Hotel. Elizabeth Gillette, the city’s first woman doctor, and Jesse Zoller, the first woman president of the Schenectady School Board, are also in the green.

“It puts you in the spirit,” said Edmonds, a society volunteer, of the annual decorating challenge.

“You’re with friends and music,” smiled Nevin, a member of the society’s board of directors.

“And it gives a chance for volunteers to get together and do something we feel is beneficial to the society and to the community,” Edmonds added.

Fun is also part of the process. That’s why an alligator has a place on a Christmas tree.

“Noah had them; so we have them, too,” Wengrovius said.

Categories: Life and Arts

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