While wintering in Florida quite a few years ago, Pauline Cray, former owner of Imagination in St. Albans, Vermont, attended an event called the Festival of Trees, where city residents paid $25 per ticket to attend a gala that included an auction of unique, fun and gorgeous Christmas trees created by people in the Fort Lauderdale area.

The idea impressed Cray so much that she brought the idea home to Franklin County and turned it into northwestern Vermont’s hottest holiday happening.

The Festival of Trees concept is simple: create a Christmas tree and donate it. Artists. Businesses. Residents. Students. Churches. Any one or any group can create a tree, in their own style, which is auctioned at the popular and highly attended Friday night gala. No tree is turned away.

At similar events elsewhere, the general public can’t see the trees unless they attend the gala. Cray, however, wanted everyone to view the trees in Vermont, even if they couldn’t be at the gala, so she and her hardworking committee turned the St. Albans Festival of Trees into a three-day, weekend long event, with family activities, a parade, music, and more, all in downtown St. Albans.

“Oh, the trees we had last year were so gorgeous!” Cray says. “They were just unbelievable. Breathtaking!” Festival of trees attendees agree, the event is only getting better with age.

In 2016 Pauline Cray decided to retire and handed the festival to Saint Albans Community Arts, a committee of the Saint Albans for the Future and the Downtown Board. With the help of many volunteers and community organizations, the festival will stay downtown for many years to come.

The Festival of Trees is focused on fun, but there is another goal. Each year, proceeds go to various nonprofit groups in Franklin County. In the past, thousands of dollars from the Festival of Trees have gone to the Bellows Free Academy-St. Albans High School Drama Club, the St. Albans Society for the Performing Arts, the Franklin County Humane Society, and Laurie’s House, a safe shelter for domestic assault victims.

It really is the most wonderful time of the year.