By Konstantine Fekos
Move over, Santa Claus. This lane’s reserved for Christmas trees.
Cochranton’s Community Fair Parade Committee ushered in the Christmas spirit this weekend with Christmas Tree Lane, a colorful three-day celebration that helps the committee fund its namesake.
More than 20 miniature and full-size Christmas trees set the Cochranton Volunteer Fire Department Social Hall aglow amid stands of local vendors, peddling holiday-themed wares to make spirits bright.
“We’re about 23 years or more in the running,” said Rita Preston, secretary/treasurer for the parade committee. “It’s an event we love.”
If love is tangible, the proof is in the pudding, or in this case, the homemade pies baked and sold in the social hall kitchen, along with soups, sandwiches and additional refreshments.
The kitchen efforts are headed by Preston’s husband, Robert, as well as other communty members.
Proceeds from the event benefit Cochranton’s Community Fair and parade, operating with the challenge of fewer state funds ever year.
“We try to raise at least half of our parade money through this event,” said Preston, always looking for more dedicated volunteers to help the committee’s efforts as well as spread Christmas cheer. “There’s been a smaller crowd this year.”
While other committee members have banned Preston from praying for snow, lest another blizzard hit as in previous years, she believes a light dusting would encourage more visitors to support their cause.
“It’s a great fundraiser to help the parade, which brings people into the community,” echoed local resident Jamie Carroll, who has attended the event for several years.
Christmas Tree Lane sees a wide demographic of visitors ever year, Preston mentioned, from children awaiting Santa’s arrival to adults simply looking forward to a holly jolly Christmas.
“My fudge is always a big hit,” said local vendor Diane Deutsch, who believes visitors grow happier as they walk down the Tree Lane, even if they don’t have a lot of spending money. “It’s a lot of fun just to get out and walk around. The socialization is wonderful.”
Long-time crafter and vendor Barb Moore enjoys meeting new people who pass by her stand of hand-carved, hand-painted ornaments and home decorations.
“Mostly Santa Claus and snowmen are my big hits,” she said. “It’s for a good cause. I enjoy doing it and I’ll be here next year.”
In addition to locally made crafts, Christmas-lovers can expect to be welcomed by the sight of trees both classic and eccentric, decorated with everything from snowflakes and gingerbread men to postcards and coffee mugs.
“Our tree people are amazing working within the time limits given,” said Preston, noting that trees are usually set up on Thursday, prior to the event’s Friday opening and tree judging for numerous categories, including adult with hand-crafted ornaments, youth organization trees miniature trees and commercial trees.
This year’s award winners include Girl Scout Troop 30145 for Best of Show and Wynmore Club for Most Original.
Sunday visitors can see the remaining awards as well as cast their vote for the People’s Choice Award, which will crown its winner at 4 p.m.
Many trees are decorated to reflect their sponsors, including trees provided by the Cochranton American Legion Auxiliary, Keystone Riders, Cochranton High School and many more.
Sponsors and vendors provide and decorate their own trees, whether they be real or artificial, full-sized or miniature.
“We’ve tried to stick with trees and Christmas displays,” said Preston, admitting creative eccentricity often times gets the better of decorators, herself included. “I have a tree or two. It would almost be a crime if I didn’t.”
One tree pulling the heartstrings of coordinators and visitors alike is the Victorian-themed tree standing towards the middle of the hall in memory of the late Doris Smock, charter member of the Christmas Tree Lane Organization and Fair Committee member, who passed away earlier this month.
“It was kind of hard to do a tree in memory of my mother-in-law,” said Preston, refusing to let this cherished event falter at the last minute. “But it was something we had to do as a committee. This event is her baby.”
Preston expressed her appreciation to all volunteers, first-timers and otherwise, who stepped up for the event and its coordinators in their time of need.
“If you’re interested in what we do, get involved; contact us,” said Preston.
Anyone interested in joining the committee’s cause or simply the Christmas fun can visit www.cochrantonevents.com or the parade committee’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/CochrantonFairParade.
“I think if you love Christmas and you’re a kid at heart, you’ll be here,” Preston said.
YOU CAN GO
The Cochranton Christmas Tree Lane is held in the Cochranton Volunteer Fire Department Social Hall and runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. today, Nov. 18. Admission is $3 for adults, $1 for children and teenagers ages 6 and up and free for children under 6 years old.