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By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
Last week, The Gardens at Elm Bank opened their doors for the annual Festival of Trees Christmas celebration.
But if you went last year and assumed you’d see the same things once again, you’d be surprised at how many changes the garden has made.
The most prominent feature of the festival is the room full of artificial trees, all of which will ultimately be raffled off to attendees. While some of the trees are very similar to those of years past (for example, a local brewery created one that comes with alcoholic drinks, a convenience store has a tree covered in scratch tickets), this year, many people stretched the concept of what constitutes a “Christmas tree.” Among the classic faux evergreens, there is a neon cactus, a large mailbox covered in lights, and a small pyramid of house plants arranged to look like the classic holiday decoration.
Outside, the first thing one is likely to notice is that the festival both looks and smells different. The source of the unique smell is the s'more kits the festival added, while the change in luminosity comes from using double the number of lights they did last year.
“One of the favorite things that we’ve added this year are s'more kits, so people can buy a kit of graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows and roast them on our fire pit," explained Senior Horticulturist Hannah Tragiss of the Mass Horticulture Society. "We have also doubled the amount of lights we have outside in the garden, so it’s a spectacular nighttime display of Christmas lights throughout the gardens.”
What about the famed Christmas village and train setup? Always a highlight of the festival, each year Bill Meagher creates a new display - but unless you have a photographic memory, it’s often hard to remember what the display looked like last year to notice the differences. Luckily, Meagher explained the differences himself. "The Village at the foot of the mountain has been completely revised," he said. "The new layout includes a trolley car, a train coming through it, a choir singing Christmas songs, new skating ponds, more moving vehicles and new parks. In the amusement park, there is a lighted new train with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
If all this sounds like something you’d like to see, you should know there is one final difference between last year’s Festival of Trees and this year’s that may be of great interest to you: while the artificial trees will be gone on December 15, this year, the festival will remain open later than that - and the price of admission will be reduced.
For further information about the Festival of Trees, visit www.masshort.org/garden-event/festival-of-trees/.