The yuletide season brings tree-mendous festivals

If Jo Ann Menzer were a Christmas tree ornament, she’d probably top the tree.
Twin sisters Amy Davis and Kathleen Van Iderstyne trim a tree at the YWCA for Concerned for the Hungry.
Twin sisters Amy Davis and Kathleen Van Iderstyne trim a tree at the YWCA for Concerned for the Hungry.

If Jo Ann Menzer were a Christmas tree ornament, she’d probably top the tree.

Menzer, Larry McArthur and Shaniah Maxwell were decorating evergreens last week at the Schenectady County Historical Society for the coming Festival of Trees. In the mood for the holidays, they were willing to consider whimsical lives as Christmas ornaments.

“I would probably be a star,” said Menzer, who lives in Glenville and was hanging ornaments on a tree dedicated to children’s author Richard Scarry. “I’m a somewhat religious person, I’ve always had wonderful thoughts and imagination about the star that led the shepherds and wise men to Jerusalem. And it was a magnificent star.”

The yuletide season has arrived, so have tree festivals. The historical society on Washington Avenue returns with its eighth annual showcase, which pairs with the tree show next door at the YWCA. One admission fee gets you into both.

Trees stands are going up in Saratoga Springs, Ballston Spa, Queensbury and Amsterdam, among other places.

Albany Institute

And the Albany Institute of History and Art, which started the tree festival scene in the Capital Region before retiring its gallery several years ago, is back in the game. “Home for the Holidays” will be held this weekend with Christmas trees, Dutch cookies, old-fashioned toys and ornament-making.

“Whenever I’m in the community and talking with people in the area, they speak fondly of the festival of trees,” said Tammis Groft, the museum’s executive director. “They remember coming to the museum with their families and seeing the whole place decorated. We are looking to bring back that type of event.”

At the historical society, Shaniah Maxwell, 15, of Schenectady, was on decoration detail with six fellow sophomores from Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons High School. “I’d probably be a sparkling bow,” she said. “I like to sparkle, I like to shine. And I’m confident — a confident bow.”

The ND-BG teens decorated a tree with yellow lights and maroon tulle fabric — school colors. A knight’s helmet topped the tree representing the school nickname.

Showing spirit

Model airplanes covered branches on the Empire State Aerosciences Museum tree, and Larry McArthur considered life as a soaring, jet-powered ornament.

“The A-4 Skyhawk,” he said, showing off a model of the plane once used by the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels flight team. “I flew this plane, I flew it off the USS John F. Kennedy.”

Kaitlin Morton-Bentley, assistant curator at the historical society, hopes people fly in to the 35-tree festival. The party starts Friday and runs through Sunday, Dec. 14.

“It gives us a chance to do something a little different,” Morton-Bentley said. “Families come in and organizations come in and decorate these beautiful trees that really open the museum and make it festive. It’s a connection to the community.”

Food for hungry

There’s also a connection at the YWCA. The Concerned for the Hungry team spruced up its tree with packages of breakfast cereal, turkey gravy, tuna fish and other foods. They’ll all be donated to the YWCA food pantry at festival’s end.

Decorator Kathleen Vaniderstyne is proud of her volunteer work. So she knew what she’d look like if she were a Christmas tree ornament. “I’d be an angel,” she said. “I volunteer an awful lot.”

Karen Curtis of Delmar, talking about the Blue Star Mother tree, played along: “I’d probably be a great big old heart,” she said, “because we love our kids and we’re very proud of their service to this country.”

The Blue Star seven-footer is filled with white lights and photos of servicemen and women. Karen’s son Daniel McGuire, a Marine Corps helicopter pilot, is on the tree.

“Every year is different,” said Lynn Vincent, administrative coordinator for the YWCA. “There’s always something new. It’s just getting the ‘Bah, humbugs’ out of you. It fills you with the Christmas spirit.”

Merry and bright

2014 Festivals of Trees will be held at the following sites:

— Schenectady County Historical Society Festival of Trees, 32 Washington Ave., Schenectady. Friday through Sunday, Dec. 14.

Hours: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

$5 for adults; $2 for children. Children under 6 are free.

— YWCA Festival of Trees, 44 Washington Ave., Schenectady. Friday through Sunday, Dec. 14.

Monday through Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

$5 for adults; $2 for children. Children under 6 are free.

Note: Admission paid to one Schenectady festival includes admission to the other.

— Saratoga Festival of Trees, Saratoga Springs City Center, 522 Broadway. Thursday, Dec. 4, 2-6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 5, 2-6 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 6, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 7, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

$3 opening night; afterward, $8 for adults, $5 for seniors, $3 for children 10 and older. Free for kids under 10.

— Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Women’s Club Festival of Trees, Ballston Town Hall, 323 Charlton Road, Ballston Spa.

Friday, Dec. 5, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 6, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 7, noon-4 p.m.

Free, donations accepted.

— Century Club of Amsterdam Festival of Trees, 130 Guy Park Ave., Amsterdam. Monday, Dec. 1, through Sunday, Dec. 7.

$5 for adults; $4 for seniors; $3 for students.

— Albany Institute of History and Art, 125 Washington Ave., Albany, “Home for the Holidays.” Friday through Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Free

— North Country Festival of Trees, Queensbury Hotel, Ridge Street, Glens Falls. Friday, Dec. 5, 5-9 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 6, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 7, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

$7 for adults, $5 for seniors, $3 for children 12 and younger.

— New York Power Authority’s Blenheim-Gilboa Visitors Center Festival of Trees, 1378 Route 30, Gilboa. Monday, Dec. 1 through Wednesday, Dec. 31. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day. Free.

— Berkshire Museum’s “Festival of Trees 2014 On Safari” at the museum, 39 South St., Pittsfield, Mass., through Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015.

Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sundays, noon-5 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

$13 for adults; $6 for kids 3-17. Free for members and children under 3.

Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at [email protected]

Categories: Life and Arts

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