Continuing to provide comfort to those impacted by pregnancy and infant loss, Kingston resident Khristie Staines is embracing the opportunity to once again feature a memorial tree in the Euharlee Festival of Trees. Titled “Angels Among Us,” the for-display-only offering from Footprints on the Heart will join many decked-out trees and decor that will be up for auction starting Nov. 28.
“This past week has been an especially busy time for all the supporters of the Euharlee Festival of Trees, as well as for supporters of Footprints on the Heart,” said Staines, who cofounded Footprints on the Heart in 2012. “Festival volunteers and donors have been working nightly to get trees into their final locations. Due to the increase in individuals and businesses that have come onboard this year, we have had to shift the trees around several times to make room for everything, and this is a good thing as with more items up for bid, there is more potential to serve families in our community.
“On Wednesday night, Misty King, Windy Arrington, Trevor Staines, Tonya Kelly, Kathy Bibbings and myself each placed precious ornaments on the Footprints on the Heart Pregnancy and Infant Memorial Tree. ... We have displayed a memorial tree annually since 2012. Through the years, we have had different themes for our tree. This year’s tree will be themed ‘Angels Among Us.’ The tree will be decorated in various angels’ ornaments, as well as many ornaments with the names of our precious babies honored over the past four years.”
On Saturday, the festivities will kick off with a parade featuring various unconventional means of transportation, such as decorated riding lawn mowers, bicycles, golf carts, motorcycles, floats and trailers. While all entrants younger than 12 need to be accompanied by an adult, youth younger than 16 must have parental supervision when riding a powered vehicle other than a riding lawn mower. There is no fee to participate and pre-registration is not required.
Parade participants will start lining up at Woodland Middle School, 1061 Euharlee Road, at 4:30 p.m. Departing at 5:30 p.m., the procession will travel down Euharlee Road, turn left on Covered Bridge Road and end at the Euharlee Covered Bridge for the beginning of the 13th annual Euharlee Festival of Trees.
Through Dec. 12, the Festival of Trees — located at the Euharlee Granary, 114 Covered Bridge Road — will be open to the public Monday through Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. and Friday to Sunday from 6 to 10 p.m. Santa will be available for visits and pictures each Friday through Sunday from 6 to 8 p.m.
The Festival of Trees will feature about 25 trees, eight to 10 wreaths and various centerpieces that will be on display and up for auction, with the last bids being placed on the event’s final night. The artificial trees will vary in size — 4 feet to 9 feet tall — and decorations.
In its third year presenting the Festival of Trees, The Just Believe Christmas for Kids Foundation will carry on the tradition of the event’s previous organizers — The Covered Bridge Players and the Margaret Montgomery Christmas 4 Kids Foundation — with proceeds helping provide Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in Bartow. There will be no admission charge but donations will be accepted. Last year’s proceeds enabled Just Believe Christmas for Kids Foundation to provide toys and clothing for 22 children.
“We usually have about 1,500 [people],” said Just Believe Christmas for Kids Foundation Cofounder Kathy Bibbings, referring to the first night’s attendance. “I know there’s a constant line ... from the time we open the door till almost the time we leave. People [are constantly] going in.
“[When we open the doors], it’s very heartwarming. It’s just magical to see the kids when they first come through the door and some of the parents too that have never been, because they’re just like in awe of what’s going on and what we’ve done. It’s just very rewarding. I absolutely love it. ... [It is] uplifting, [especially] knowing where the money goes, knowing that some child is going to be smiling on Christmas morning. I love doing for kids. I just love it.”
Attending the event since its inception, Staines also has delighted in working behind the scenes over the years, helping create a magical experience for Euharlee Festival of Trees patrons.
“This event truly is a work of heart,” Staines said. “Volunteers spend countless hours each year setting up the magic that attendees experience each year. ... While there are many sights and sounds of the holiday season, one of the most magical sights is that of the Euharlee Festival of Trees — a little boy looking at the village display checking to see if the train is moving and spotting the firehouse and other scenery, ... of a precious little girl taking in all of the beautiful ornaments of each tree, the excited glances through the window of children sneaking a peek at Santa, the older family members reminiscing about Christmas long ago when they were a child, the Nativity scene tucked into a special spot, the delight of all who sit around the fire making memories that last a lifetime, with or without an overindulgence of marshmallows, and of course the proud parents whose child has visited with Santa for the first time ever or the first time without crying.
“... This is the heart of this annual community event. This is why Euharlee Festival of Trees volunteers work hard for three months out of the year, as well as during the other nine months gathering donations and brainstorming. We know that Jesus is the reason for the season. We feel that we are showing his love each night those doors are open. We are seeing Christmas through the eyes of a child and with the children. At the end of the day, that is who this event is for.”