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Festival of Trees: Enchanted holiday forest on display at trolley barn

By Hugh Fisher
hfisher@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY — Now in its eighth year, The ARC of Rowan’s Festival of Trees has become a holiday staple some residents.
Mary Sue Clodfelter, for one.
“This has become a tradition for us,” Clodfelter said.
Friday night, she brought her grandchildren to explore an enchanted indoor forest of lighted trees, no two alike.
She’s been a summer volunteer with The ARC in the past, and said the event is a great way for the public to learn about the group.
“Every tree has a story,” said Jane Jackman, executive director of The ARC.
All across the floor of the F&M Trolley Bar, the 52 trees sponsored by local churches, schools, businesses and agencies cast a colorful glow.
Jackman said this year’s trees run the gamut from the traditional to the unique.
A hands-down kiddie favorite was Salisbury Pediatric Associates’ tree, decorated to resemble the “Sesame Street” character Big Bird.
Other area businesses contributed trees with business-centric themes — among them, the cowboy-hatted snowman head atop the Wells Fargo tree.
And a perennial rendition of Food Lion’s tree covered with name-brand snacks, which would doubtless make Santa Claus self-conscious about his cookies and milk on Christmas Eve.
The Food Lion tree was the favorite of 4-year-old Nathan Wetmore.
“Because it has chips and candy,” Nathan said, with parents Jeff and Betsy standing by.
The Wetmores drove from Granite Quarry for the Festival of Trees.
Daughter Lauren Wetmore, 9, said she liked the Big Bird tree best. “It’s more creative,” she said.
Going with good taste, Jo Ann Whitten of Salisbury said the Cheerwine tree decorated by Shari Graham and Hen Henderlite was her favorite.
And, asked individually which they liked, Jim and Cindy Pope agreed on two out of three trees they said were their favorites.
They loved the Civil War Christmas tree, “Hardtack and Peace,” decorated by their friends, retired teachers Eunice and Terry Holt.
And they enjoyed the colorful tree decorated by Carson High’s OCS class.
They split on their third choice. Jim liked the themes on hot cocoa; Cindy chose the Rowan Master Gardeners’ entry.
“The imagination that goes into these is fabulous,” Jackman said.
She praised the work of volunteers that had gone into setting up the trees.
Those same volunteers will deliver the trees, still fully decorated, to local destinations after the weekend’s event is finished.
Janet Stirewalt, one of The ARC’s board members, said she hopes the event brings holiday cheer, but also awareness.
Jackman agreed, saying that though this is the group’s biggest fundraiser, “the biggest takeaway is not just the money.”
“It’s truly about The ARC and people with developmental disabilities,” Jackman said.
“We don’t need The ARC to be a secret,” she said.
That said, the roughly $10,000 that sponsorships and donations bring in will help the agency keep doing its job after the holidays.
The Festival of Trees continues downtown from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. today and from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.

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