BROWNSTOWN — First-time participants in the Jackson County History Center’s Festival of Trees claimed the four awards handed out.
In the past two years, only a people’s choice award went to the tree receiving the most votes.
This year, organizers still gave out that award but also first, second and third places since there was a record 21 trees or displays up for votes. The theme was “My Favorite Animal.”
On Wednesday afternoon, history center volunteers Margo Brewer and Gloria Cross presented the awards to the winners, who didn’t know where their entry had placed until it was announced.
Janet Kiewit of Brownstown won the people’s choice award with her silver tree decorated with polar bear ornaments.
“I’m just floored. I didn’t expect it,” Kiewit said, smiling.
“(Brewer) called and said I was one of the winners, and I thought I was probably eighth or something.”
Kiewit said she decided to participate because she had visited the Festival of Trees in the past and thoroughly enjoyed it.
“I just absolutely love Christmas,” she said. “You walk in (the livery barn) and it’s just kind of magical, and when Margo suggested I do a tree, I was like, ‘I’d love to.’”
She picked polar bears because she likes watching them when visiting zoos. The tree decorations consisted of clear plastic globe ornaments with polar bears she made inside, and she also had paw print ornaments and hung postcards with pictures of polar bears on them. Plus, she made the box that served as the base to hold the tree.
As for the tree, Kiewit said she has multiple Christmas trees at home, and she had asked her husband to buy one of the silver ones, but he returned home with two.
“It was just a spare that I had, and that’s how it ended up down here,” she said.
First place — receiving the second-most votes — went to Parker Dental LLC’s owl tree, second place went to Leonard Schroer’s farm display and third place went to Covered Bridge Health Campus’ bird tree.
Megan Parker, wife of dentist Eric Parker, said she and their eldest son visited the Festival of Trees two years ago when Santa Claus was there. This year, the dental office decided to put up its own tree.
“I love, love, love Christmas, so this was a fun thing to participate in and be a part of,” Megan said.
The decorations included owl ornaments and a wooden sign with the phrase “O come let us adore him.”
“We kind of played with the idea of ‘Owl come let us adore him,’ trading out owl for O, so that was kind of a fun theme,” Megan said. “We still wanted it to be Christ-centered even though it was a fun thing to do.”
Her mother, Doby Confer, helped decorate the tree, and her youngest son was “a perfect little baby” while they worked.
“I have never decorated a tree like this before, so we didn’t really know what we were doing, but we had fun,” Megan said. “We had a blast. It was really fun.”
She considered it an honor to earn an award.
“We were just excited to be a part of it,” she said.
Schroer’s display included a couple of barns and a house that he built, old trucks from the 1950s, farm animals and two decorated trees.
“I usually set it up in my garage every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and so I saw where they were going to have this, and I thought, ‘Well, I’ll just get in on that,’” the Dudleytown man said.
He was happy to win one of the awards.
“Yeah, that’s pretty cool. I wasn’t expecting that,” he said, smiling. “You’ve got so many other beautiful trees around.”
For Covered Bridge’s tree, Life Enrichment Director Erin Robinson said residents of the Seymour nursing home cast votes for the animal to feature on the tree, and birds won.
On a flocked tree, Robinson and customer service representative Hannah McCord placed ornaments featuring owls, white birds, cardinals and small birdhouses, ornaments topped with feathers and large gray feathers.
Robinson said the red cardinals stood out with most of the other decorations and tree being white. A flocked tree is treated by a method called flocking to look as if it’s covered in freshly fallen snow.
“They are becoming a lot more popular the last couple years, which I think they just look pretty,” she said.
Next Christmas, Robinson said the tree will be put up in the nursing home, which has several on display each year. They also hope to participate in the Festival of Trees, which will have the theme of snowmen.
The other winners want to participate again, too.
“I’d love to do it,” Schroer said.
“I enjoyed it, and if anybody even remotely is thinking of doing this, they should,” Kiewit said. “It is just fun to be down here when others are (decorating) theirs.”
Brewer said nearly 700 people visited the Festival of Trees in December, and she hopes to see more come through this year and also add more trees.
“We’re just tickled to death with the response that we’ve had from the community,” she said. “There have been people here that have come from Seymour as well as just here in Brownstown. We had such good reactions from so many people, and we had several people — and I’ve made a list — say, ‘I want to do this next year,’ so we’ve got room for a few more trees.”