By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Marlborough – An idea introduced in 2008 added 17 decorated trees to the Marlborough Historical Society's annual “Christmas at the Farm” at their quaint headquarters, the Peter Rice Homestead. That simple idea has grown to become this year's fifth annual “Metrowest Festival of Trees,” now featuring over 100 trees and wreaths displayed along with other attractions at the 47,500-square-foot Best Western Royal Plaza Trade Center. Festivities are scheduled for Friday, Dec. 7, 5 to 9 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 8, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 9, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Businesses, organizations and community leaders sponsor the decorated trees, which are prizes of a raffle.
The event is produced in conjunction with Olde Marlborough Inc., of which Bob Kane is executive director. Kane is also curator of the Marlborough Historical Society and the festival organizer since its inception. From the start, Kane said he was inspired by the “Methuen Festival of Trees,” now in its 19th year and produced by that city's historical society. He invited committee members from Methuen to Marlborough's first festival and they shared their experience.
“Two women came to our homestead and were very helpful,” Kane said. “I remember them sitting there, having their gingerbread and crying. They were reminiscing about when they started. They said, “You'se got us beat – you started with 17 trees; we started with 15.””
The Methuen event benefits historical preservation throughout the Merrimack Valley. Likewise, the Marlborough festival will support historical programs in the city and throughout the Metrowest area.
The local festival has expanded significantly in five years. In its second year, a tent was rented and pitched on the homestead's front lawn when the number of trees rose from 17 to 40. The next year, a space was available across the street for several new attractions and some of the trees, which totaled about 60.
When that space became unavailable last year, the festival moved to Sts. Anargyroi Church and was well-attended.
“Last year, we had over 3,500 people come from over 70 communities in five states,” Kane said.
While that venue's two floors accommodated more than 70 trees and wreaths, and other attractions, Kane said the location “posed logistics problems,” particularly with parking in a neighborhood where weekend church services were held during the festival's prime time.
“With the trade center, we'se got 1,200 parking spaces, all well-lit, with a shuttle van,” Kane said. “I's excited about this year's festival because it's big and has so much to offer.”
Among this year's new attractions is Dickens Village.
“For Dickens Village, we rented two theatrical backdrops of old Victorian streets,” Kane explained. “We'se having Victorian strolling carolers there – a group of singers from the Ghost Light Players. And we'se putting crafters there who are geared toward that era.”
Last year's festival had about six crafters. This year, guests can shop for handmade items from about 90 crafters.
Also new this year is the North Pole Play Land with several children's amusements including a carousel and a train.
Among returning favorite attractions for the third year is Santa's Village with Bob LeDuc of Wooden Toys & Crafts.
“You see all the kids there with their parents, and they'se making old-fashioned toys that they can give as gifts to a sibling or a cousin,” Kane said. “It's always very popular.”
Guests of all ages can visit Candy Land with nostalgic treats provided by the Wayside Country Store.
“You can go there and have fun, do your holiday shopping and maybe win a tree,” Kane said. “We wanted to make it a multifaceted type event.”
For information, visit metrowestfot.org.