Carnegie Library Museum Festival of Trees aims for strong 2021

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Trees from Showtime Studio, left, Flock 9 Studios, center, and the First Baptist Church -- along with figurines provided by Alberta Smith -- were just a small sampling of the viewing pleasures on display at the second annual Carnegie Library's Festival of Trees in 2015.

The Carnegie Library Museum is missing the beauty and twinkling lights of festive trees along with the welcome chatter and laughter of families completing a scavenger hunt or debating which entry is their favorite.

As much as Katie Schott and I enjoy coordinating the Festival of Trees — being the first to experience the unique creations, making new friends and welcoming people of all ages to enjoy this event  — neither we nor the city wanted to compromise anyone’s safety.

The festival requires lots of much-appreciated community participation and collaboration to succeed. While the Carnegie is a beautiful building, it is not conducive to social distancing. Our set-up dates are always extremely energetic and hectic, with people in close quarters and anywhere from one to four or more people setting up each of the displays, which numbered 50 in 2019.

In addition, Hometown Heritage is one of our critical partners since they coordinate the scheduling of volunteer staff for the festival, staff the event themselves, sell quilt raffle tickets and more. Hometown Heritage will not resume its residence in the Carnegie until later in 2021.

We hope our absence makes your heart grow fonder and that we’ll be back bigger, better and more diverse in 2021. You have been gifted with an extra 12 months of time to design and develop your entries.

We made several popular changes in 2019 that we look forward to building upon in 2021. The Perry Public Library partnered with us in developing a scavenger hunt with prizes for kids. We implemented a wonderful suggestion by Rosa Gonzalez to be open one evening, with Rosa graciously sharing her bilingual skills to interact with families in both Spanish and English — enhancing our outreach.

This is community event for all — everyone is welcome. We value diversity both in the participants who share their time and talents to make the event possible and in the guests who experience both the Festival of Trees and the Carnegie itself. We look forward to continuing to try different ways to reach our entire community.

We plan to retain aspects of the Festival of Trees that have become tradition and that people expect and enjoy: the holiday village, the Santa collection, various nativity sets, figures of carolers, a quilt raffle and more.

And, of course, continuing our broad definition as to what a “tree” is. It may be called the “Festival of Trees,” but it’s really “choose your spot within the Carnegie Library Museum and fill it with whatever creation you devise.”

We began in 2014 with 12 trees. Seventeen participants have been part of the Festival for four or more years. The Raccoon River Valley Bicycle Co., Betsy Peterson Designs and Alice’s Haus Dresin have been with us from the start — all six years. We’re always amazed by the entries, the creativity and the diversity. We’re thrilled to have repeat participants as well as newcomers every year.

While it is a fundraiser to benefit the gem that is the Carnegie Library Museum, it’s mainly a community event for all to enjoy. We welcome donations but want to maintain our practice of no entrance fee.

One of the most frequent comments from guests is that they have a hard time deciding on just one exhibit to vote for when they visit the festival.

And one of our most rewarding comments comes when someone discovers the Carnegie for the first time, not realizing what was behind the doors of that funny-shaped building in the triangle.

Enjoy the season, and we will plan to see you in 2021!

Laura Stebbins is co-organizer, with Katie Schott, of the annual Festival of Trees at the Carnegie Library Museum in Perry.

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