Jackson County History Center seeks entries for Festival of Trees

What’s your favorite animal?

That’s the theme for the Jackson County History Center’s third annual Festival of Trees.

Some folks like dogs or cats the best, while others might prefer animals down on the farm, such as pigs, cows or horses, and don’t forget about wild animals and dinosaurs. Think about your favorite animal and use it as an inspiration to decorate a Christmas tree to enter in the festival. The possibilities are endless.

Starting immediately, those interested in participating can call to make an appointment to do setup. Trees can be put up any time between Nov. 1 and 22. Electricity will be provide, and then the trees will need to be taken down between Jan. 2 and 8. Arrangements should be made by calling Gloria Cross at 812-358-4005 or Margo Brewer at 812-358-2924.

The display will be available to view during December dates yet to be announced and also during upcoming Christmas events in Brownstown. People also can set up other times to walk through the livery barn on the center’s campus to see the trees.

Brewer first brought up the idea for the festival after she visited the Festival of Trees in Shelby County and brought the idea back to present to the history center in Brownstown.

“I can come in with the ideas and Gloria Cross, another volunteer, can come in with the fluff,” Brewer said. “She has got such an eye and such a vision. She can take just about anything and make it beautiful with attention to all the minor details.”

Brewer said the center’s first Festival of Trees was held in 2018. The livery barn was transformed into a winter wonderland.

“Last year’s event was canceled due to COVID, but the year before, there were 10 trees eligible to receive votes, and another 15 were set up for people to look at while visiting the livery barn during the holiday season,” Brewer said. “Right now, we already have five people who have shown an interest in entering this year.”

Individuals, families, students, church groups, organizations and businesses are invited to bring an artificial Christmas tree to the center, 105 N. Sugar St., to decorate with ornaments and lights based on the theme “My Favorite Animal.”

Brewer said the trees can be any size, from those on a tabletop to those on a stand. Ceramic trees are welcome, too.

Several individuals decorated trees during the two previous festivals based on their interests, including jewelry and handmade doilies. Others were made by local school and community groups, including FFA, 4-H, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and German Club.

“One couple who were past winners put music boxes on their tree the first year,” Brewer said. “People can just be creative and use their imagination and make it a complete scene, such as a tree skirt or whatever else they’d like to use.”

All visitors will receive a ticket and are encouraged to cast their vote for the people’s choice award. There will be a decorated can next to each tree where tickets can be dropped in. A small prize will be awarded to the winner.

Becky and Lester Urbain of Freetown were presented with the people’s choice award in 2018 when the theme was “A Few of My Favorite Things” and also in 2019 for “My Favorite Color.”

Brewer said the facility is handicap-accessible, and groups are welcome to make an appointment to view the trees.

“The students from the Lutheran school here in town are going to walk down and visit one day,” Brewer said. “We can arrange it so that just your individual group can be there privately, and I think with the building being big and open, we can do the social distancing.”

Bill Day, president of the Jackson County History Center, said the Indiana Historical Society has an event similar to this in Indianapolis every year and it’s outstanding.

“Ours is very good, though, and Margo has worked very hard on making this a success,” Day said. “The first year we had it, there was nearly 1,000 people that came through to see it, and it was pretty overwhelming, and there was just about as many in 2019.”

There is no charge to enter a tree in the festival, and admission to come in and view the trees is free, too.

“We are a nonprofit and completely volunteer-run and the only history center that is for all of Jackson County,” Brewer said. “Anyone who would like to learn about becoming a volunteer may contact us at the Jackson County History Center.”