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Festival of Trees sets attendance record

December 05, 2009|By MARIE GILBERT

HAGERSTOWN -- Temperatures were approaching 90 degrees and people were vacationing at the beach when a kickoff luncheon was held months ago for the sixth annual Festival of Trees.

Saturday night, with a blanket of snow covering the ground, the event came to a successful conclusion.

Several hundred people were expected to attend a finale gala at Hager Hall Conference & Event Center, site of this year's festival.

This was the first year for the semi-formal cocktail reception, which replaced the weeknight preview party.

The Festival of Trees is a fundraiser for Antietam Healthcare Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports Washington County Hospital.

The five-day event featured a display of about 50 uniquely embellished Christmas trees and wreaths. Each was sponsored and decorated by businesses, organizations and individuals from the community.

Visitors also could enjoy a model train display, seasonal entertainment and a gift shop.

According to Sandra Pollack, executive director of Antietam Healthcare Foundation, a record 3,000 people attended this year's festival.

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"So many people look to this show as a way to usher in the holiday season," she said. "Every year, it seems to get bigger and bigger."

While it's an enjoyable event, Pollack said the festival serves another purpose.

"It's a great way to introduce hospital programs and services to the community," she said.

Nicki Brinegar, manager of special events for the Foundation, said the trees and wreaths were available for purchase through a silent auction. During Saturday night's gala, attendees had an opportunity to put in final bids.

Pollack said organizers were hoping to raise about $20,000 from the Festival of Trees.

A variety of hospital programs and services will benefit, she said, with a special focus on cardiology, special care nursery, diabetes education, and cancer identification and treatment.

With this year's festival behind them, Brinegar said the planning committee will immediately begin thinking about next year's event.

"It's a lot of work," she said. "But, absolutely, it's a lot of fun."

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