Friday, February 23, 2018
Events

Festival of Trees has finery for sale this weekend

CLEARWATER

As the 29th annual Festival of Trees, dubbed "Santa's Workshop," prepares for its Friday opening, dozens of rosy-cheeked elves with pointed ears and mischievous smiles frolic on a 9-foot Christmas tree. The imps are into the candy, Santa's mailbox and the children's toys. One apparently leaned over too far and is now falling off his ladder.

Stuff happens when Santa goes on break.

Behind all this holiday havoc is the decorating team from Ameri­Life, an insurance marketing group based in Clearwater that was chosen to create the 2013 Feature Tree for the extravaganza.

Unlike the playful elves, the team took the task very seriously.

"We wanted to make sure it was perfect so we decorated a 7-foot mockup tree first," said Kelly Atkinson, one of the decorators. The tree features "falling snow" and Christmas music.

It will be showcased among about 100 other seasonally festooned trees as UPARC Foundation presents its signature event Friday through Sunday in the gymnasium at the Long Center. (The foundation has its headquarters in the building.)

The trees, along with wreaths, centerpieces and handcrafted ornaments, all decorated by imaginative artists, schoolchildren, businesses and community leaders, will be for sale. Vendors will sell holiday fare along the winding woodlands pathway.

Be on the lookout for trees like "Boyds Bears," which showcases more than 200 handcrafted bears; "PC vs. Mac," a creation by a local tech group; and "The Old Red, White and Blue," by MacDill Air Force Base families.

Proceeds benefit the UPARC Foundation, which supports 19 group homes and three day programs for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This year UPARC is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The group serves about 300 clients.

• • •

In the mood for a fancier party? At the Premiere Night Gala on Friday, enjoy libations, yuletide performances and cuisine from upscale restaurants while perusing trees that inspire visions of sugar plum fairies, the North Pole, toy soldiers and gingerbread men.

The evening will celebrate UPARC's anniversary with a live auction of select trees, a Clearwater dolphin sculpture created by the clients of UPARC's Harborside Studios, tickets to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, vacation packages and more.

• • •

It's called Santa's Workshop for a reason. The guy in red will make his official arrival at 10 a.m. Saturday. Children can enjoy a milk-and-cookies bar afterward. Also on Saturday, holiday craftmaking activities for the little ones take place from 10 to 4 p.m.

Local choral and dance groups will perform each day. Photo opportunities with Santa will be available during all general admission hours.

Be sure and check out the special Mickey Mouse tree decorated by the Schaffer family of Indian Rocks Beach. The tree is a tribute to their son Michael, who died this spring at the age of 23. A dwarf, he weighed a mere 40 pounds and was 47 inches tall. He was medically fragile his whole life, his mother, Vonnie, said.

Besides the Mouse, he looked forward to the Festival of Trees every year.

"He loved the lights, the trees, the colors and photos with Santa," she said. "He didn't talk, but he 'quacked,' when he was happy. Everyone knew him for his quack, and it made everyone smile."

His tree is decorated with Mickey and Minnie ornaments; a plush Mickey toy rides in a sleigh beneath. Glittering "M"s stand for Mickey and Michael, and 13 bells recall the date of April 13, when he passed away.

Snowflakes also adorn the tree.

"I picked snowflakes because each one is unique and individual, just like Michael," his mother said.

Correspondent Terri Bryce Reeves can be reached at [email protected]

   
Comments
St. Pete bar hosting rock, paper, scissors competition

St. Pete bar hosting rock, paper, scissors competition

ST. PETERSBURG — Paper covers rock. Scissors cut paper. Rock crushes scissors.If you remembered that as a kid, and somehow mastered it as an adult, you could earn some quick cash.The childhood favorite gets an adult twist on Thursday night when SubCe...
Updated: 9 hours ago
‘Annihilation’ is strange, beautiful biological mystery

‘Annihilation’ is strange, beautiful biological mystery

Alex Garland’s Annihilation is a bracing blend of cerebral sci-fi and grindhouse terror, a genre movie that’s more, maybe too much for some viewers.Based on Tallahassee author Jeff VanderMeer’s novel, Annihilation on the surface is a dead-ducks missi...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Feb. 23

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Feb. 23

Blast Friday: The Romantics: The family-friendly food and craft vendor festival featuring a free live concert and a beer garden. 5:30 p.m., 400 Block of Cleveland Street, Osceola Avenue and Cleveland Street, Clearwater. Free. (727) 464-7200. Pasco Co...
Published: 02/22/18
Review: John Dufresne gives an entertaining short course in ‘Flash! Writing the Very Short Story’

Review: John Dufresne gives an entertaining short course in ‘Flash! Writing the Very Short Story’

Don’t tell John Dufresne you don’t have time to read.In fact, don’t tell him you don’t have time to write. Instead, spend a little time with his new book, Flash! Writing the Very Short Story. You’ll find a treasure trove of stories you can read in th...
Published: 02/22/18
Plan your weekend: Monster Energy Supercross. Gasparilla Distance Classic, Clearwater Sea-Blues Festival, slam poet Neil Hilborn

Plan your weekend: Monster Energy Supercross. Gasparilla Distance Classic, Clearwater Sea-Blues Festival, slam poet Neil Hilborn

Extreme Monster Energy Supercross Championship: The action-packed dirt bike stunts and racing returns to Tampa for the first time in two decades. Each track in the 16-city series is different, so competitors will ride between 15 and 20 laps around t...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/22/18
As spring approaches, parties, food festivals bloom at Florida’s theme parks

As spring approaches, parties, food festivals bloom at Florida’s theme parks

Can you feel it? The air is gradually thickening with humidity and the layers of clothes are getting thinner. Spring has almost sprung and with it brings a bumper crop of festivals in Florida’s theme parks full of food, wine, concerts and parades. Th...
Published: 02/21/18
An original clarinet and bassoon composition highlights Tampa Bay Symphony concert

An original clarinet and bassoon composition highlights Tampa Bay Symphony concert

ST. PETERSBURG — After the National Anthem and some introductory remarks by the maestro, a teacher from Chattanooga, Tenn., addressed a crowd at the Palladium Tuesday about the short work they were about to hear from the Tampa Bay Symphony."This piec...
Published: 02/21/18
Innovative artist Toni Dove’s Embodied Machines and Bekky Buekes’ Black. White. Gold.

Innovative artist Toni Dove’s Embodied Machines and Bekky Buekes’ Black. White. Gold.

Toni Dove: Embodied MachinesIf you were feeling like your art viewing experiences haven’t been high-tech enough lately, the "Embodied Machines" exhibition opening at the Ringling Museum on Sunday will fill that void. It’s the first survey exhibition ...
Published: 02/21/18
Top things to do this weekend: Supercross Championship, Olate Dogs, Gasparilla Distance Classic

Top things to do this weekend: Supercross Championship, Olate Dogs, Gasparilla Distance Classic

BIKE RACE: Monster Energy Supercross ChampionshipThe action-packed dirt bike stunts and racing of the Monster Energy Supercross Championship return to Tampa for the first time in two decades. Motorcyclists will race at more than 60 mph and fly off ju...
Published: 02/21/18
Orchestra debuts commissioned work, slam poet Neil Hilborn performs in Ybor

Orchestra debuts commissioned work, slam poet Neil Hilborn performs in Ybor

FLORIDA ORCHESTRA: NEW BLOODOne of the more significant Florida Orchestra events of the season, the world premiere of a commissioned piece, is this weekend. The orchestra, with personal financial backing from music director Michael Francis and his wi...
Published: 02/21/18