CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The 2011 Festival of Trees event took place Friday and Saturday night at the former Union Pacific Depot. This ninth annual event was organized by a local disability advocacy group for employment called the Cheyenne Business Leadership Network. The holiday-themed event served as a fundraiser for CBLN’s MentorABILITY Career Development Program with a goal of raising $20,000, according to Program Coordinator Clay Long. This program assists young people with disabilities in finding gainful employment.
The 2011 Festival of Trees in Cheyenne, Wyoming featured a free public viewing
On a mild Friday night, a free public viewing of the nicely-decorated Christmas trees took place from 630pm to 8pm. Each tree cost an average of $200 to decorate, Long said, as employees from local businesses and others volunteered their time to create stunning-looking trees. Chocolates hung from one tree, while quilt patterns hung from another. Large stars, angels, and even the head of a snowman and Santa Claus topped the various trees. Each person attending voted for the best-decorated tree by being given a bean to drop into the bucket in front of the tree they liked best.
Wreaths were also on hand to admire, one being decorated with Dale Earnhardt-themed goods. Santa Claus and his wife listened to the gift requests of the youngsters, many of which made up the steady stream of locals, who were rewarded with free cookies and hot chocolate to help keep them fed and warm.
Gala Night featured one Christmas tree being auctioned off for $860
On Saturday night, the sold out Gala Night saw the main floor area of the former Union Pacific Depot virtually packed for dinner and the auctioning off of Christmas trees, wreaths, and other locally-donated items. Guests were served a three-course meal featuring prime rib or salmon as the main course. Before the main course was brought out, the Gem City Quartet (minus one member) played various holiday carol music to help warm up the festive atmosphere inside, which was quite a contrast to the chilly conditions outside.
One of the success stories of the MentorABILITY program, Dylan John, gave a brief speech about his finding employment through the help of CBLN and other local programs. The 21 year old works at Lowe’s Distribution Center in the “Print and Apply” Department, netting 25-plus hours a week there. Asked what the CBLN organization means to him, John said, “It means opportunity. It gave me a great opportunity. It gives opportunities to not just me, but to other people with disabilities.”
A silent auction featured a number of gift baskets containing food, wine, chocolate, etc. But the priciest item on hand for that particular auction was the chance to make a bid on a Garth Brooks-autographed guitar. During the live auction, some 26 lots were auctioned off by Jeff Ketcham, including eight large trees and five smaller ones, as well as some Christmas wreaths and other items. The bidding really got dramatic as a tree full of chocolate treats sold for $860. The final item brought up was a “troop tree” containing letters from kids to Wyoming soldiers who are away from home, all of which is to be sent to them. Many of the items won by bidders were set to be given to local organizations.
Long said about the two night annual event, “It’s a night where the community gets to both enjoy the beginning of the Christmas season and help people with disabilities in our community – which is what the CBLN does.” More than 30 local businesses and other entities helped to make this year’s event happen, including the purchasing of whole tables for some 170 total dinner guests expected to attend.
Program, Festival of Trees 2011, November 19, 2010, Cheyenne Business Leadership Network