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The trees are the stars at Robinwood Medical Center festival

November 29, 2007|By MARIE GILBERT

Anna Wignal was about 5 years old when her family bought and decorated their first Christmas tree.

She remembers being fascinated with the iridescent color of the ornaments and the fragrance of the balsam.

Each year thereafter, Wignal looked forward to stringing popcorn and bringing out the handful of store-bought decorations.

It was a feeling she never outgrew.

"It's the magic of Christmas," the 75-year-old Hagerstown woman said.

Wednesday evening, Wignal said she felt like a child again as she walked through a room filled with more than 50 holiday trees.

"I definitely have the Christmas spirit," she said.

Wignal was among more than 325 people who attended a preview party for Antietam Healthcare Foundation's fourth annual Festival of Trees.

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Held at Robinwood Medical Center, the event features a display of uniquely embellished Christmas trees and wreaths.

Each was sponsored and decorated by businesses, organizations and individuals from the community.

This year, the festival features a model train display, seasonal entertainment and the North Pole Limited Gift Shop.

The tree exhibit will open to the public today and continue through Sunday.

Tree themes cover a spectrum of interests - from the traditional to the whimsical. There are Victorian trees, a tree decorated with toys of yesteryear and one for the Red Hat Society.

According to Sandra Pollack, executive director of the Antietam Healthcare Foundation, about 100 people volunteer each year for the Festival of Trees.

"All you have to do is walk through the exhibit to realize how much work goes into making this event possible," she said.

Organizers hope to raise $25,000 from the event. Proceeds from this year's festival will benefit the Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) Program at Washington County Hospital.

Specially trained and certified nurses are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and respond to sexual assault and child abuse cases, said Pamela Holtzinger, SAFE program coordinator.

The nurses collect evidence to help identify and prosecute offenders, she said, and are instrumental in helping victims heal.

Holtzinger said with technology changing almost daily, the money raised from the festival will help upgrade current equipment, which is about five years old. Money also will be used to assist those individuals interested in receiving forensic nursing certification.

While the tree exhibit is the centerpiece of the festival, Pollack said a number of other activities are planned through Monday, including a senior social and holiday tea on Friday and children's holiday activities on Sunday.

"This really is an event for the community," said Pollack. "We want everyone to come out, wander through the trees, get some great decorating ideas and just enjoy themselves."

"It's a great way to kick off the season," said Jenny Martin of Hagerstown, who was among those attending the preview party. "I helped decorate a tree for the festival about two years ago, so I know how much work is involved. But this year, I'm here to support the fundraiser and admire all the beautiful trees."

The evening also included a live auction of the two Best of Show trees, a wine tree and a Best of Show wreath.

"I'm considering making a bid," Martin said. "Everything is so impressive."




If you go



What: Festival of Trees

Where: Robinwood Medical Center

When: Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.

Cost: $5 for adults; $3 for ages 3 to 12

More information: Call 301-790-8033 or visit www.festivaloftreesinhagerstown.org

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