|By Maryellen Fillo, The Hartford Courant|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Now living in
"It just hits my heartstrings and stirs up good memories and makes good memories," said the 31-year-old, mother of two. "It's part of our holiday tradition. And you can't give up tradition."
And so it is, not only for the thousands of people who will trek to the city's
Each year garden clubs, retailers, banks, decorators, designers, businesses, community groups and individuals craft trees, garlands, wreaths and table arrangements now reflecting not only Christmas but other December holidays as well, including Kwanza and
Coordinated by its Women's Committee, the festival began in 1974 and has grown each year adding a variety of family-oriented events and entertainment during its 10-day run. Since it began, the festival has attracted more than 500,000 visitors and raised about
"We are so glad to be able to do it," said
"It is always exciting for us to create for the festival," said Amadeo. "We just found out three weeks ago about doing three trees instead of one so it was a miracle to pull it off but we did it."
Contributions over the years have reflected traditions, culture, lifestyle trends and timely causes. There have been Whalers trees, when the professional hockey team was in
For the past several years, Travelers, also one of the original festival donors, has decorated its tree to underscore the ultimate sacrifice of the state's military. Called "Connecticut Fallen Heroes," the tree is decorated in red, white and blue featuring ornaments with pictures of those active duty
"We will continue to do this kind of tree each year until all of our service men and women are back in
Among the many donors each year are also schools, church groups, non-profits and many individuals who consider creating a tree and donating it to the festival, part of their own holiday tradition.
"I do it with my dad every year," said
"We spend money wildly on it," she laughed, noting that the two go to the festival together each year to see all the trees. "We usually get the inspiration for the next year's tree as we walk around," said the
Another long time individual contributor is
"We started about 10 years ago," she said, explaining how she, her sisters and their mother first visited the festival and wondered how they too could make a tree contribution. It became their family tradition, a reason to get together and do something that not only was artistic but benefited a cause. While her mother has passed away, Sacco and her sisters still create a donation, including a special one this year.
This year's partridge-in-a-pear tree, "First Day of Christmas,",is in memory of her mother, Beatrice, with a traditional theme and a contemporary edge featuring silver pears with orange glitter, fruit blossoms and white lights.
"It makes you start thinking about Christmas in July," laughed Sacco."It's a fun thing and I still get a rush when I walk into the festival each year and see all the trees," she said. "I think we would miss it if we ever stopped doing it."
The Festival of Trees and Traditions is open from
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