First Festival of Treescalled a success story

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 2, 2002

[12/01/02]Tristen Malone didn’t want to sit on Santa’s lap Saturday, but the 4-year-old’s mind was quickly changed when his grandmother told him the man in red wouldn’t visit their home unless he did.

Reluctantly, Tristen climbed up and said, “A chainsaw and a leaf blower.”

Tristen was one of about 100 children who visited Santa at the Reindeer Round-up breakfast at the Vicksburg Convention Center’s weekend Festival of Trees.

The center’s executive director, Larry Gawronski, said the two-day event had two goals and achieved them both.

“We wanted to raise money for our chosen charity, and we did,” Gawronski said. “But it wasn’t all about money. We wanted to see families celebrating together; that’s the best part of it for me.”

Later in the day Saturday, about 60 area senior citizens were treated to the Silver Bells senior tea, where students of Debra Franco’s Preparatory School of Dance performed The Nutcracker Ballet.

“It gave me cold shivers,” 84-year-old Mary Helen Sultan said. “I’ll definitely be back next year.”

Organizers said they wanted the event to become a holiday tradition.

“For the first time out of the box, it is going well,” Gawronski said Saturday afternoon. “We have a lot of positive things to grow on.”

He said the proceeds, which will go to the United Way of West Mississippi’s Community Storehouse Food Pantry, will not be tallied until Monday, he was sure the result would be a positive one.

“We’ve had over a 1,000 people come through the door,” Gawronski said at 3 o’clock. “Everyone got into the spirit, which was great.”

Also, as part of the weekend’s events, 29 decorated Christmas trees were auctioned during a Silent Night Preview Gala Friday night; shoppers visited Mrs. Claus’ Marketplace, an area of specialty shops by local vendors; children played at Santa’s Village, an area for games; and bands performed at Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, a stage with live entertainment.