(File photo)

(File photo)

Ponoka Festival of Trees ready to take root again after 2-year absence

Residents can expect to see cherished events, a beautiful atmosphere and slight schedule changes

The Ponoka District Health Foundation is gearing up for the first Festival of Trees in two years as COVID-19 guidelines allow for traditional celebrations.

Last year, the foundation held an un-festival of trees to raise money for long-term care facilities, raising more than $75,000 for long-term care beds and mattresses.

They also set up trees in the town centre and the library during November and December to allow people to see something of Christmas.

Beginning in 2014, the festival has become a joyous holiday event people look forward to, as well as a way to raise money to support local hospitals and Ponoka health care.

People can expect to see white glistening décor offering the feeling of Christmas at the Stampede grounds where all the events will be hosted.

For the 2022 event (happening the first week of December), organizers have hired wedding planner Diane Rose, who works out of Rose Creation Event Planning and Rentals. Foundation chair, Dorothy Ungstad said after seeing Rose’s work they felt she would be a great choice to decorate the Festival of Trees and coordinate the events.

The theme this year will be Snowflakes and Diamonds.

Ungstad told Black Press Media they moved the event from the third week in November to a Dec. 1 opening as local businesses may want to use the Festival of Trees for their staff Christmas parties.

Cherished highlights such as the gala, where they expect to sell 350 tickets, will be back once again. Other events include the silent auction, Seniors Candy Cane Coffee, Little Black Dress event for women, Snow Much Fun for children and a Santa meet-and-greet.

The Beef ‘n’ Beer event from 2019 will not be back. Ungstad is uncertain if they will be having a Sensitive Santa for children this year. All events will be held at the Stagecoah Saloon.

There has been discussion about Christmas décor shops, tree-selling and an auction, but these events have not been confirmed yet. Plans will be finalized once a meeting is held in September.

This year’s fundraising focus is on Space Lab monitors, which track the heartbeat and breathing of newborns and other patients in need, Ungstad explained.

Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre’s emergency department released a statement saying the machines are saving lives and they have nine spaces open. The minimum fundraising goal for Space Lab is $125,000. If more than this is raised, the foundation will spend it on other hospital equipment for the hospital based on a list it provides.

Ungstad is hoping they will have 40 to 50 sponsors to allow events to run smoothly as well as an abundance of volunteers.

“Ponoka is a very giving community and a lot of sponsors that we had in 2019 will for sure come back this year,” Ungstad said.

She said she expects a good turnout because people want to get out and do things, they haven’t been able to in a while. Crowds are expected to be full and joyful.

The biggest challenges in event planning this year, Ungstad said, are relying on sponsors while not knowing how many are going to participate under the uncertainty of COVID-19. Ungstad said they will be prepared to follow the public health guidelines at the time of the event.

“We’re really optimistic about the festival of trees,” Ungstad said. “I think we’re going to be well prepared.”