BY JENNIFER AMY MYERS, Valley Dispatch Staff
METHUEN — The winner of the best overall tree at this year’s Festival of Trees almost didn’t make it to the party.
“Saturday night the tree fell and broke into 100 pieces,” revealed Linda Mulligan, who teaches freshman cosmetology at Greater Lawrence Technical High School. “I took it down and redesigned it and it came out even better.”
By far the most entrancing of this year’s forest of 205 ornately decorated trees, “Flurries” is an elegant, entirely white tree decorated with ice skater and snowflake ornaments. Draped in “snow,” admirers remarked that they felt cold just looking at it.
The tree is beautiful, but the breathtaking crest really took the cake. Appropriately for a group of budding cosmetologists, the tree topper is a mannequin’s head dressed as the ultimate ice-skating princess, with white “fur” atop her head, her haunting eyes staring out at the crowd, very Doctor Zhivago.
“Flurries” took the best tree award, as well as the award for best tree skirt, and second-place honors for best tree top decoration and most unique tree.
“Wow!” she said. “There is just so much imagination her and these people put so much effort into doing something different every year.”
Since 1994, the Festival of Trees has funneled $561,000 into restoring and preserving Methuen’s rich history. Restoration projects have included the Tenney Gate House and the tomb of Mrs. Edward Searles, as well as many of the old stone walls seen throughout the city.
Each of the 205 donated trees will be raffled off on Dec. 3. Five dollars will get you a sheet of 26 raffle tickets, which can be separated to be placed in the canister in front of the tree or trees you hope to take home. Many of the trees come with a lot more than just a few ornaments and tinsel.
Throughout the festival are trees that offer iPods, Patriots tickets, toys, gift baskets and various gift certificates.
Some tree decorators had current events on their mind. The Marsh Grammar School presented a tree titled “All That Jazz: A Tribute to New Orleans,” colorfully decorated in Mardi Gras beads, stuffed alligators, light sticks, and ornaments made by students, including Mardi Gras masks and trumpets.
While Audrey Feliciano and Carol Gallagher’s “Mardi Gras Heaven: In Memory of the Victims of Hurricane Katrina,” took a more subdued approach, decorating the tree entirely in white and gold, with angel’s wings, doves and Mardi Gras masks.
The award for most unique or creative tree, as well as second-place honors for best tree skirt, went to Frank and Karen Small, a pharmacist and respiratory therapist with four children under the age of 6.
“The biggest challenge is keeping the kids from knocking the tree down,” Frank Small laughed.
Their tree, “Nature’s Christmas Angel,” is meticulously decorated with hundreds of pine cones, right down to tiny pine cones at the tips of each branch, that were glued on individually by Karen Small late at night after the children had gone to sleep. The tree is topped with an angel’s head and face made entirely of pine cones. Pine cone wings sit on the tree’s back, adorned with feathers.
This is the third year the Smalls have decorated a tree for the festival, and have learned the tricks of the trade.
“We got all of the materials the day after Christmas for the next year,” revealed Frank Small.
“By the second week of September our toy room becomes the tree room,” Karen Small said.
The Festival of Trees continues through Dec. 3 at Valley Office Park on Branch Street. It is open on weekdays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and weekends from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. General admission is $6; senior citizens are $4 and children under 12 are free. For more information, visit www.methuenfestivaloftrees.com, or call (978) 685-8878.