Schenectady Festival of Trees offers an opportunity to be creative

Schenectady fest opens Dec. 1; trees also on display in Amsterdam
Nancy Wasmund of Burnt Hills looks at her tree, “Peck the Halls,” at the Schenectady County Historical Society.
Nancy Wasmund of Burnt Hills looks at her tree, “Peck the Halls,” at the Schenectady County Historical Society.

Her friends at the Schenectady County Historical Society are always asking Nancy Wasmund where she comes up with all of her clever themes for their annual Festival of Trees event. Well, she does have a few secrets.

“I get my ideas from all kinds of places, and throughout the year if I go shopping I’ll go with the Festival of Trees in mind,” said Wasmund, a Burnt Hills resident and a SCHS volunteer since 2011. “I started thinking about this year’s tree last February. I also have some children and in-laws who have great ideas, and I just love to be creative. It’s a challenge, but it’s a creative outlet that’s a lot of fun.”

This year’s event begins with the Night of Lights at 7 p.m. Friday at the society headquarters at 32 Washington Avenue in the Stockade section of Schenectady. Tickets are $15 and include live music, food from the Wagon Train BBQ and Villa Italia, a raffle and a cash bar. The actual Festival of Trees, which begins Saturday and runs through Dec. 16, is $6 for adults and free for children under 12.

Wasmund’s theme this year is “Peck the Halls,” and her tree is covered with chickens of all kinds. Her entry last year, “Chemis-Tree,” won the most creative award voted on by visitors to the society museum.

“My in-laws had some wrapping paper from last year that had some chickens and a few roosters on it, and I thought to myself, ‘I can do something with that,'” said Wasmund. “So my tree has a chicken theme, and we have a big chicken head as the tree topper. My sister had some little big bean chickens made from Christmas material, and I bought some wonderful chickens on line, and I got a lot of material from Tractor Supply. It’s amazing what you can find there.”

The historical society event is held in unison with the YWCA of NorthEastern New York, located next door to the society. Between the two venues, nearly 50 trees will be on display.

“We get great exposure from the Festival of Trees and it’s an opportunity to enjoy a partnership with the historical society,” said Kim Siciliano, who has worked at the YWCA for 17 years and has been executive director for the past 18 months. “It brings people through our doors who otherwise would probably never come here. It’s a visit that’s not crisis-oriented, so it’s a fun and wonderful way for the community to see our building and to view some gorgeous Christmas trees.”

The historical society and the YWCA, which will also be open Friday night for the $15 admission, have hosted a joint Festival of Trees since 2007. Each venue invites different groups, businesses and individuals to come and decorate a tree, and the money raised goes to the two organizations. Among the participants at the society this year are the Heritage Home for Women on upper Union Street, the Schenectady ARC, the Bethesda House of Schenectady and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

At the YWCA, the Kiwanis and Rotary are among the regular contributors, and when the festival concludes the tree decorations are usually put to good use.

“The Kiwanis tree has books on it, and when we take the trees down the children will get a free book and a pez dispenser,” said Siciliano. “Many of the trees are beautifully decorated with themes that are connected to us here at the YWCA. We end up having a lot of trees with gloves, mittens and hats that will be distributed, and we have a lot of trees with food on them and those items will go to our food pantry. All the trees are beautiful, and most of them are also very useful.”

Back at the historical society, some trees decorations are also put to good use. Kim Mabee, Kim Bianco and Carol Lewis do a lot of knitting throughout the year, and much of their work ends up on a society Christmas tree. At the conclusion of the festival, the hats are distributed throughout the Schenectady School District.

“The hat tree is wonderful, and I think the volunteers here all like the idea of challenging each other,” said Wasmund. “A lot of us are library volunteers, and we all started in 2012 when we put up a Christmas tree in the library. We all look forward now to doing it every year.”

In Amsterdam…

The Century Club of Amsterdam is putting on its own Festival of Trees at its headquarters on Guy Park Avenue from Dec. 1-8.

A “Sneak Peek” event with a $10 admission will kick off the festival Saturday from 7-10 p.m. The festival continues every day throughout the week with limited hours. Admission for regular viewing is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $3 for students.

The Century Club of Amsterdam was formed in 1895 by Mercy Annie Allen Trapnell. It is now part of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs.

Festival of Trees

WHERE: Schenectady County Historical Society (32 Washington Ave.) and the YWCA of NorthEastern NY (44 Washington Ave.), Schenectady

WHEN: Dec. 1-16, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

HOW MUCH: $6 adults, children under 12 free


Festival of Trees

WHERE: The Century Club of Amsterdam, 130 Guy Park Ave., Amsterdam

WHEN: Dec. 1-8, times vary

HOW MUCH: Regular viewing hours, $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $3 for students

MORE INFO: Visit Century Club of Amsterdam on Facebook











Categories: Life and Arts

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