NAUGATUCK — Local businesses, civic organizations, and individuals displayed both creativity and generosity at the fifth annual Festival of Trees at Naugatuck Savings Bank.
The display, which is open throughout this week at Naugatuck Savings Bank at 87 Church St., kicked off Friday with a reception and silent auction.
Nikki Yanarella, co-chair of the festival, estimated that 200 people attended the reception.
“Every year it grows, and grows, and grows,” Yanarella said.
This year, 98 trees glimmered with themes including Harry Potter, box cars, and Woodland pride. That’s up from 63 trees the first year, when the event was held at the Naugatuck Historical Society.
“There are no Charley Brown trees here. They really make your heart sing when you look at them,” Yanarella said.
Guests bid on 22 trees laden with everything from owl ornaments to cooking supplies to gift certificates. The other 76 trees will be raffled off Dec. 9 at noon.
“Some of the fun tonight is to see people outbid each other. … It gets exciting,” Yanarella said.
Some of the trees were worth a lot of money. One featured $575 worth of sterling silver jewelry, while another displayed $700 worth of gift certificates.
Last year, the event raised about $9,000 for United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls, which supports local charities, including the Salvation Army, Family Services, Wellmor, the YMCA, Red Cross, Literacy Volunteers, and Safe Haven.
Many of those agencies also decorated a tree for the festival, Yanarella said.
Lisa Shappy, executive director of United Way, presented two Van Allen Medals to Eugene “Beany” Ferreira and Ann Ferreira and Marylou Cunningham to recognized acts of kindness.
Yanarella said the event didn’t start out as a fundraiser, but rather a way to bring some joy to the community.
“It’s a great way for the community to start the holiday season,” Yanarella said.
Mayoral Aide Ed Carter said he was involved in decorating two trees – a Seussical tree for the Naugatuck Teen Theatre, which included six tickets to the theatre’s May production of “Seussical the Musical” and the mayor’s office’s bare-branch tree covered in snow that he said was inspired by the October snowstorm.
Lisa Gendron-Bioski said she was inspired to make a tree this year after reading about the festival for several years.
“It’s a really good cause,” Gendron-Bioski said as she inspected a group of trees decorated by elementary school students.
Gendron-Bioski made a cat tree titled “Purr-fect Holiday,” because she loves cats, she said. As she browsed the indoor forest, Gendron-Bioski said she enjoyed seeing old classmates.
“It’s a nice night and it’s nice to see everyone coming out. … It kind of gets you in the spirit,” Gendron-Bioski said.