Fairfield’s Christmas Tree Festival Endures
In 1981 some charity-minded locals found themselves brainstorming a way to raise money for the Barnum Festival, Bridgeport’s annual event to celebrate local business. The group, including longtime Fairfield resident Carol Wheeler, quickly came up with an idea they called The Festival of Trees. The plan was to decorate the Burr Mansion in holiday splendor and sell tickets to the public to view it—marrying the beauty of Christmas décor with the spirit of giving.
With only a few weeks’ preparation, the group put on their festival at the Burr—using some of their own holiday-themed items and Christmas trees to decorate the space. They raised $12,000 in three days. Realizing they had a magic recipe, they formed a board and incorporated themselves—changing the name to the Fairfield Christmas Tree Festival. “We have grown to become the event that kicks off the holiday season in Fairfield, and we are all so proud and happy about that,” says Wheeler. It takes months of preparation and over 200 volunteers to roll out the event, which starts on December 6 this year.
This festival is impressive in terms of fundraising. “In our 37 years, we have raised a total of more than $3.8 million and increased the public awareness of over fifty local charities. Each year, 100 percent of the net proceeds from the Festival benefit a selected local organization, and we are proud that many of these organizations have grown in size, expanding their ability to impact the communities and people that they serve,” says FCTF co-chair Shaun Amberg. This year Camp HOPE America-Connecticut, part of the service of the Center for Family Justice is the recipient of the festival. Camp HOPE America-Connecticut is a trauma-informed summer camp and year-long mentoring program for youth ages 17 and under who have been impacted by abuse. “We are proud that this year’s beneficiaries will be the young people participating in the Camp HOPE program. Dedicating this festival to children and teens who have lost part of their childhoods to trauma is so poignant and meaningful,” says Debra A. Greenwood, president & CEO of The Center for Family Justice.
The design is, of course, a central theme for FCTF, as it brings in guests eager to see the holiday displays and décor, all of which is for sale. Each year local designers and FCTF committee members donate their time and expertise to decorate a room or space at the house. “We use over 80 garlands, 75 wreaths, and lots of trees, ornaments, and ribbons to decorate,” says Amberg.
Tori McBrien of McBrien Interiors is participating for the second year. “The Festival is not only a great opportunity to spread holiday cheer during a beloved town event but it’s also a way to give back to our community during a time of year that can sometimes get overwhelming with parties and presents,” says McBrien. “It doesn’t hurt that Christmas is my favorite holiday so the more I have to decorate, the more cheer I have,” says McBrien. Last year, her room was decked in a snowy white and silver Southern magnolia inspired theme. “This year, I am adding a little more merriment by mixing in some whimsical elements as well as bringing in that traditional red to spice things up.”
Jackie Fucigna, owner of the No. 299 store is joining the design team for the first time. “I am hoping to create a space that is true to No. 299,” says Fucigna. “It will be traditional with a fresh twist.” She says nature-inspired holiday décor along with texture and lights is trending. What inspired her to participate? “I love that this year’s benefactor is Camp Hope run by The Center for Family Justice. I always host a shopping night at the store for them at holiday time.”
ROLL THE DICE // The popular Saturday night event Casino Under the Stars returns for its second year on Dec 7, 2019, held in the tent behind the Burr, and produced by James Daniel Entertainment. Guests pay a larger ticket price and receive chips to try their hand at poker, blackjack, and roulette. The big prize is a treat from Henry C. Reid & Sons Jewelers. fairfieldchristmastreefestival.org.