BY KEN LITTLE
Sunday's abundant sunshine and unseasonably warm weather may not have put many people in a holiday season frame of mind.
But those who attended the open house and official tree lighting for the 2012 Festival of Trees at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center (NPAC) on Sunday afternoon were able to get a jump start on Christmas spirit.
Everyone walking through the doors of NPAC into the lobby was greeted by a wonderland of decorated trees: the centerpiece of the silent auction event to benefit charity.
The local charity to benefit from this year's event is the Greeneville-Greene County Community Ministries Food Bank. Money raised from the event will be divided between the local Food Bank and NPAC, a non-profit organization.
The Festival of Trees is in its fifth year, and it's the third year it has been held at NPAC.
"It's a viable fundraiser," said Tina Cyr, chairwoman of the Festival of Trees, on Sunday.
There are 52 participants in this year's Festival of Trees, which will continue through Nov. 21 at NPAC.
Sponsors of the silent auction event include Greeneville's Wellington Place Assisted Living and NPAC. There is no admission cost for viewing the trees and decorations.
In keeping with this year's charity recipient, individuals are invited to bring canned goods for the Food Bank.
Businesses and individuals in the community donated the items on display, Cyr said.
Through noon on Wednesday, Nov. 21, the day before Thanksgiving, there will be a display of decorated trees, wreaths, a swag, quilts, and centerpieces throughout the lobby and mezzanine of NPAC.
Each of the entries is marked with the name of the business or individual sponsoring the item, an item number, and the theme of the item.
Regular hours for bidding are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. If there is an event at NPAC after 5 p.m., persons may also bid on the items during that event.
All individuals are welcome to offer silent bids on the items, either on a table that is located next to the item, or on the NPAC website, http://www.greenevillenpac.com
NPAC is located at 212 Tusculum Blvd., adjacent to Greeneville High School.
'FAMILY NIGHT' ANNOUNCED
Cyr said one new feature of the Festival of Trees this year is a family night, from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16.
Santa will be on hand, along with storyteller Kate Agmann and the bell choir from the Lighthouse Assembly of God Church in Greeneville.
The family night was added to the Festival of Trees list of events "because a lot of folks cannot come during the day," Cyr said.
Anyone wanting to place bids must register in person at NPAC in order to get his or her "bidding" number. Those registering must provide their name, address, and a contact phone number, in order to get a bidding number.
The reason for using the "number" for bidders is to protect the privacy of the bidders, a Festival of Trees spokesperson said.
Those unable to come to NPAC daily to bid also have the option of visiting online at http://www.greenevillenpac.com, to monitor the bidding process and place a bid or bids. The bids will be posted daily.
Jimmy Ricker, of Greeneville, said he attends the Festival of Trees every year.
"It's absolutely beautiful in here. It puts you in the spirit of Christmas," Ricker said.
"It gives you a chance to see how creative our neighbors can be. It gives you some ideas how to decorate on your own [tree], too."
One tree on display at the Festival of Trees is particularly distinctive, said Kathy Knight, a member of the NPAC Festival of Trees Committee.
According to a Festival of Trees spokesperson, there is one unique aspect of the Reformation Lutheran Church "Chrismon" Christmas tree. It's for display only, Knight said.
The church is exhibiting the tree to familiarize those in the community and area with what a Chrismon Tree is, Knight said.
"It is a variation of the Christmas tree developed in the 20th century. The ornaments are called 'Chrismons,' borrowing that term from the ancient Christian symbolism," Pastor Rick Ohsiek said in an NPAC news release.
Many people, Ohsiek said, don't realize that the concept was developed in 1957 by Frances Kipps Spencer, a member of the Ascension Lutheran Church in Danville, Va., when she set out to create decorations appropriate for a church's Christmas celebrations.
The Chrismon tree is highly symbolic, conveying the life of Christ and the meaning of Christmas through commonly found items and easily-understood symbols borrowed or modified from other sources.
The tree is evergreen, representing eternal life, and decorated with traditional and modified ancient Christian symbols, called Chrismon, which are usually handmade by members of a local congregation using beads, sequins, glitter and Styrofoam in colors of white and gold, Ohsiek said.
'PEOPLE'S CHOICE AWARDS'
Another new feature of the 2012 Festival of Trees is the creation of the "People's Choice Awards," Cyr said.
Those who view the trees, wreaths and other holiday handicrafts on display can vote in three categories, she said: Most Elegant, Most Creative or Original, and Best Overall, she added.
Prizes will be awarded in connection with the awards, she said.
As noted, the decorated trees and other items are on display through the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and silent action bid-winners are notified "so they can be notified by the day after Thanksgiving," Cyr said.
Many people like to get in the Christmas spirit and get a tree up early, she said.
In 2011, more than $7,000 was raised for the Child Advocacy Center of the Third Judicial District, in Mosheim, Cyr said.
The decision this year to make the Food Bank the beneficiary of the Festival of Trees is an appropriate one "out of the need particularly because of the economy," she said.
All participants and visitors are also encouraged to bring food items. Red wagons filled with canned goods and other food items were positioned Sunday in front of NPAC.