Organizers of the winter-themed Festival of Trees are going out on a limb to say the main attraction of the winter-welcome event will go ahead as planned this November.
The Festival, which has taken over Lac La Biche's Bold Center for a Christmas-tinged spectacle of events, crafts, and gift ideas will be slightly downsized this year, again due to COVID restrictions ... but the November 25-28 weekend event will include the namesake giant raffle of decorated trees.
In recent years, the raffle has raised tens of thousands of dollars for local charities and organizations from raffle ticket sales of the brightly decorated trees that often include certificates and gifts from area businesses and organizations.
This year's running of the event comes after organizers were forced to significantly alter last year's version due heightened COVID19 pandemic restrictions. The restrictions meant that the normal display of decorated trees in the Bold Center's Community Room was changed to have the trees displayed inside area businesses. Other events like a seniors' tea, children's games, Santa's grotto and indoor choir performances were also shuttered. This year's event will also see restrictions placed on the indoor events ... but the tree display and raffle will go ahead.
"Although many of the regular activities you have come to expect cannot run due to COVID restrictions this year; we are so thrilled to announce that the ‘Magic of the Trees’ will return to a live, in-person event running November 25-28 in the Community Room at the Bold Center," says Pat Boon-Anderson, one of the event's organizers. "The trees will welcome the entire community to come back together, to show you once again, how the Lac La Biche community is a caring, friendly and a generous place to bring your children up in."
The tree raffle at the Bold Center will be partnered on Saturday, November 27 with the Shopping Extravaganza of local crafters and home-based businesses. Both indoor events will be following current COVID-19 health and safety measures, including an overall one-third occupancy capacity, mandatory masking and social distancing.
Plans ongoing for events
Organizers, say Boon-Anderson, are also trying to add some virtual, off-site, or specifically scheduled holiday-themed events and contests.
"All other food events and children event can not run — but we are trying to still have some activities done through on-line ... like Santa letter kits done at home, (or) Make your gingerbread creations, take pictures and submit them, (or) book an appointment with Santa and get your picture," she said.
While there are still planning issues to get through, organizers are focusing on the man tree raffle as a much-needed bright spot — and fundraising boost — during challenging times.
"The best way to celebrate the Christmas season is by giving hope and love to those who need it most," said Boon-Anderson of the raffle, which has sold out in previous years, and this year is offering up 50,000 raffle tickets for a chance to win. "Our annual Lac La Biche Festival is dedicated to providing funding for many of our non-profit children groups, school clubs and music programs in our community."
Trees and 50,000 ticket sales
As plans for the event unfold, organizers are asking anyone with door prizes or tree donations to contact Tara Bergeron: 403 809 7975 email@example.com or Claudette Dube: 780 623 firstname.lastname@example.org
This year, raffle tickets will be available for purchase two weeks before the event, with 12,500 tickets available for each of the four days. Locations for ticket sales and groups that will be selling the tickets will be announced in the coming weeks. This year, instead of offering local groups funding for volunteering at the weekend event, organizers plan to offer a portion of the profits to local groups selected to sell tickets in the community.
Two community organizations, the Kids Are Worth It Food Program and the playground committee at Lac La Biche's Ecole Ste Catherine will also receive proceeds from the raffle. Funds remaining will be disbursed to other community events that submit applications for funding support.
Boon-Anderson admits that the continuing pandemic measures make it difficult to plan these kinds of events, but she and the organizers know the benefits of the fundraiser and the chance to spread some holiday joy are very important.
Updates on ticket sales and further plans for the November 25-28 event at www.lakelandtoday.ca and on the Lac La Biche POST social media sites.