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Arc of Rowan Festival of Trees event starts today

By Shavonne Walker
shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The quintessential start of Christmas for Pat Wayne and friend Charlotte Gardener is spent decorating a Christmas tree they’ve spent all year planning. The two women have been decorating trees for the Arc of Rowan Festival of Trees event for the last 12 years.

The free event is one of the main fundraisers for the Arc, which supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.

A preview party for sponsors will occur prior to the official start of the event, which will begin today from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The annual event will continue from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Local businesses, civic organizations and individuals sponsor a tree. The tree sponsor can either decorate the tree or request someone else decorate it. After being on display for the event, the trees will be delivered to area businesses and organizations.

Wayne and Gardener’s tree will eventually find a home at Capstone Recovery Center.

Gardener said the idea for their tree theme — Fa La La La — came from her daughter, who found a piece of the decoration at a store in Georgia during an after Christmas sale. The women bought different inexpensive pieces throughout the year.

She said the idea they were using this year had been rolling around in her head some years ago, but was replaced with other things that seemed to work at the time.

“We try to come up with something creative,” Gardener said.

JON C. LAKEY / SALISBURY POST The F&M Trolley Barn has been a hub of activity as preparation for  the annual The Arc of Rowan Festival of Trees is underway.

JON C. LAKEY / SALISBURY POST The F&M Trolley Barn has been a hub of activity as preparation for the annual The Arc of Rowan Festival of Trees is underway.

The women were 90 percent complete, but still had not come up with a topper. They had bags and containers of colorful decorations and declared they would create something before the day was over.

“This always makes it Christmas,” Wayne said.

The women don’t have any plans to stop decorating.

“I know we’ll always do it,” Wayne said.

The fifth grade class from Salisbury Academy came up with this year’s “Noteworthy Christmas” tree theme. Each year the class has the responsibility of creating a theme. The students voted on the theme, which parent volunteer Paula Mead believes was inspired by William “Dr. Rob” Robertson, a music teacher at the school.

Paula Mead, Dana Walser and Melissa Heilig spent the day decorating the musical note themed tree.

The ornaments were made by children with the Footprints in the Community, a nonprofit that serves children with special needs.

The students of the Skills, Opportunity, Awareness, Readiness (S.O.A.R.) program at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College have been creating their Jungle Book themed tree for months. The students saw the Jungle Book and lead instructor Jay Taylor talked to the students about adding popular characters to the tree.

“They loved the idea,” said work study student Alicia Ketchie.

She said the students over a three- to four-month period have been making clay and papier maché characters. All of the ornaments on the tree were made by the students.

“It’s a testament to the program. We’re really a team,” Taylor said of the decorating.

Keith Gapen and his wife, Janet, sponsored a tree as well as Bimbo Bakeries, where Keith is director of the Delhaize Team at the company, also sponsored a tree.

The couple have been a part of the event since the beginning.

“It’s exciting to see it grow,” Keith said.

He recalled when there were only about 20 to 25 trees and now there are well over 50.

Gapen said the Festival of Trees is a great free event for families.

All of the volunteers will complete their tree today around noon.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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