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Kick off to the holiday season in Red Deer begins

The 17th annual Festival of Trees kicked off yesterday, marking the unofficial start to the holiday season in Red Deer.

Over the last 16 years the Red Deer Regional Health Foundation has raised $6,395,513 through its incredibly successful Festival of Trees.

Red Deer’s festival is used as a model for similar events in many other communities.

This year the Festival of Trees runs through to Nov. 28 at the Westerner Grounds.

“It’s become a premiere event in the City. Red Deer is a very giving community and recognizes the need to increase and enhance what’s available at the regional hospital,” said Brenda Mullaney, project officer for the Festival of Trees for the Red Deer Regional Health Foundation. “It’s a project that touches everyone and is very popular in the community. Every year we grow a little more.”

The six day event was supposed to get started with Red Deer’s Biggest Tree Festival and Christmas parade in downtown Red Deer on Tuesday evening but was cancelled due to cold temperatures.

“It was a difficult decision and we were very disappointed to have to cancel the event this year,” said Lindsey Knudson, co-chair of the Biggest Tree Festival. “However, our primary concern was the safety of public, volunteers and entertainers. The chance of frost bite at these temperatures was not worth the risk.”

Meanwhile, last year the Festival of Trees raised $600,000 to help pay for a colonoscopy clinic for the Red Deer Regional Hospital.

This year’s festival will raise money to upgrade technology and enhance capacity in the hospital’s cardiopulmonary services.

Money raised will be used to purchase resuscitation equipment, cardiac monitors, ECG machines, ventilators and a telehealth system; all of which will benefit patients of all ages in areas like emergency, outpatient services, diagnostics and inpatient care. Cardiovascular disease is still the leading cause of death in Canada.

This year the festival got off to a better than ever start with almost $148,000 donated by trades people and True-Line Contracting who helped build a three-bedroom, 1,500 sq. ft. show home in Clearview.

Like many successful events, Mullaney said it wouldn’t happen without widespread community support and dedicated volunteers.

“We have a fabulous number of volunteers, 1,800 of them in total, and last year we had 22,000 attendees at our events,” she said. “We offer a lot and there’s something for everyone, from seniors to children.”

Events for the festival include the Preview Dinner, on the Thursday, which is a formal dinner for the hundreds of event sponsors, which include the Red Deer Express.

The Silver Bells Luncheon, on the Friday afternoon, provides entertainment and lunch for seniors.

A Taste of Red Deer on Friday features bargain deserts at a selection of City restaurants. The Festival of Wines, also on the Friday, features wine sampling from around the world with appetizers, a raffle, live and silent auctions and a wine store.

On Saturday there’s the Teddy Bear Breakfast and the ‘Tis the Season Fashion Luncheon.

Mistletoe Magic, which takes place on Saturday, is an evening of dinner and entertainment for fathers and daughters of all ages, are very popular. It sold out in five minutes, said Mullaney.

The Festive Finale Family Brunch on Sunday wraps up the event with a brunch that includes a chocolate foundation, desert table and live entertainment.

Tickets for all events (if they aren’t sold out yet), which are mostly held at Westerner Park, are available from Ticketmaster. More information about all events is available at www.reddeerfestivaloftrees.ca.

efawcett@reddeerexpress.com

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