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Tree-mendous time: After 15 years of overseeing prettiest trees in Oak Harbor, Festival of Trees decorating chairwoman to pass baton

Ruben Ruiz, left, of VAQ-140 at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, and Mark Forbes, board member with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Island County, unload a tree Tuesday morning at the Oak Harbor Elks Lodge. The Festival of Trees is Friday night. - Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times
Ruben Ruiz, left, of VAQ-140 at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, and Mark Forbes, board member with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Island County, unload a tree Tuesday morning at the Oak Harbor Elks Lodge. The Festival of Trees is Friday night.
— image credit: Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times

Glenn Anthony’s attempts to stop his wife were turning futile.

He’d look away for a moment, and his wife would sneak in the door with another couple of packages in her arms. He didn’t want her lifting so much.

“Let me get the rest of the stuff before she unloads the car,” Anthony said as he walked outdoors.

It’s a busy time of year for Mollie Anthony and husband Glenn.

A time when planning, purchases and brainstorming come together in the form of elaborately decorated Christmas trees.

Mollie Anthony is the chairperson in charge of tree decorating for the Festival of Trees in Oak Harbor.

Each year, she’ll decorate one or two trees and make sure there are plenty of ornaments and lights on hand to transform 7-foot tall Noble firs.

Each of the larger trees are wrapped with more than 1,000 lights and are auctioned off at a black-tie dinner that benefits the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Island County.

The event is at 5 p.m., Friday, Dec. 6 at the Oak Harbor Elks Lodge. It is nearly sold out at $85 a seat. Those interested in tickets may call 360-279-0644.

For kids, there is a Teddy Bear and Character breakfast Saturday morning with sessions at 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. at the Elks Lodge with tickets ranging from $5-$10.

The fundraising event culminates with a community tree viewing and open house at the Elks Lodge from 1-4 p.m. Saturday.

Ten large trees will be on display, each at or just over 7 feet tall. There also will be four table-top-sized trees.

The trees are from two North Whidbey tree farms -- Pacific Winds Farm off Torpedo Road and Hennrich Tree Farm on Hastie Lake Road.

Some arrived Tuesday morning fresh from a flocking inside a garage at Gail and Chuck Jaeger’s home in Oak Harbor.

“The community sort of sees it as the opening of the holiday season,” Mollie Anthony said.

For Anthony, this will be her final year as head of the tree decorating committee.

She’s held that title each year since the event started in Oak Harbor 15 years ago.

“She is really a sweet, sweet person,” said Penny Perka, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Island County. “She’s done it so graciously.”

The mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters is to pair kids facing adversity with caring adults.

The Festival of Trees, sponsored by Island Thrift, is the organization’s biggest fundraiser, raising $132,000 last year.

Trees typically are auctioned off from $1,000 to $2,000; however, Anthony remembers one year a bidding war resulted in a $6,500 donation.

Trees aren’t the only items up for bid.

Other auction items this year include vacation, adventure and party packages, glass-blowing lessons from Oak Harbor dentist Gary Berner and even a miniature Dachshund puppy donated by Best Friend’s Veterinary Center in Oak Harbor.

But the centerpiece items are the trees, decked out by a decorating committee of about 20 and supervised by one.

Anthony still plans to help decorate trees next year.

“I decided that I’ve been chair long enough,” Anthony, 76, said. “It’ll let somebody else do it now.”

Being part of the Festival of Trees has been a joy, she said. She came to Whidbey Island from Maryland 15 years ago to be closer to her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter who bears her name.

She found new friends and a husband, Glenn. They’ve been married seven years.

Glenn bought a raffle ticket for $100 during the Gala event a few years ago and won a tree for his wife, but being part of the decorating committee, she felt she couldn’t accept it.

“I didn’t feel right taking a tree,” she said.

She feels wonderful watching others enjoy them.

“I’ve really enjoyed it,” Anthony said. “As a new person in the community, it was a great way to meet people and make friends.”

 

Public viewing

The public may view this year’s assortment of Christmas trees from the Festival of Trees Saturday, Dec. 7, from 1-4 p.m. at the Oak Harbor Elks Lodge.

 

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