It’s kind of like deja vu all over again.

Six years ago, the Festival of Trees reappeared after a 15-year absence, sponsored by the New Castle Public Library. The once-annual holiday event had originated in the 1980s with sponsorship by the former St. Francis Hospital, but came to an end in 2000.

Now, the Festival is making another comeback, albeit after a much shorter, pandemic-spawned absence in 2020, with sponsorship by Lawrence County Community Action Partnership and the Neshannock Township Education Association. Proceeds continue to benefit the library as well as the foundation.

The event features 32 beautifully decorated trees, nine wreaths, 33 vendors, five food trucks and a continuous line-up of live, local entertainment. New this year was a gingerbread house contest, and the 17 local entries will be on display as well.

The three-day holiday celebration will welcome visitors from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the schools of the Neshannock Township School District. Admission is $5 for adults, 10 and under are free.

All trees and wreaths will be raffled to raise even more money for the education foundation and the library.

Fourth-year event chairman Michael Vatter is among those excited to be back after a year’s layoff.

“It was tough, it really was,” he said of 2020’s absence. “We really wanted to do it, we do this as an outreach to the community. It’s tough when you want to do this and bring everything together for everybody and it’s a hard thing when you can’t do it. So we’re really looking forward to it.”

Vatter praised the efforts of all the volunteers involved in staging the festival, but he’s particularly taken with the decorators.

“I spend a lot of time with the decorators, so they’re kind of like my heroes,” he said. “I kind of think that they’re the stars of the show because the trees are what really attract people.

“But I know there’s a lot more than that. There are people who are attracted to the crafts, or the entertainment, so there is a lot of local talent that is really highlighted and showcased in the script as well.”

Among those helping to get everything in order is Carly Searcy, director of the New Castle Public Library. She just assumed that post in July, so this is her first Festival of Trees.

“It’s kind of been the highlight for me of working here at the library because it’s bigger than what I get to see at the library,” she said. “I was there on Sunday, helping to set up and it was pretty exciting.

“You go into a school gym, and we all know what a school gym looks like,” she continued. “The decorators were spending their Saturday and Sunday decorating all the trees. and when the lights went off, and the trees were lit, it was really transformed from a school gym into something beautiful. I’m really excited to be part of that.”

The festival, Searcy noted, is the library’s biggest fundraiser and, as such, it’s the gift that keeps on giving the whole year through.

“They really help us do some important things throughout the year, like help pay for our programming all year long.”

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