The Festival of Trees, which brought holiday cheer to the Johnston Medical Mall for a decade, will not take place this year.
The festival featured dozens of Christmas trees decorated by businesses and community groups and displayed in the wide hallway of the medical-office building in Smithfield. While people viewed the trees, school groups and others performed holiday music. Admission was free.
Susan Woodard, president of festival organizer Keep Johnston County Beautiful, said the number of volunteers had dwindled to the point where the event was simply too much to put on.
“It’s a lot of work for a small amount of people, so we decided we’d just hold out a year and pursue other projects,” she said.
The volunteers had many tasks to perform: securing sponsors, delivering and watering trees, greeting visitors, pulling together the entertainment. And many found themselves working 12-hour days, Woodard said. As the event grew and volunteers got older, it became increasingly hard to pull it off, she said.
“People get older and can’t do that type of physical labor anymore,” Woodard said.
In the event’s biggest years, about 17,000 people passed through the doors, she said.
Keep Johnston County Beautiful launched the Festival of Trees to raise money to conduct and publish a survey of Johnston County architecture.
Woodard said if another nonprofit wanted to continue the festival, she would be thrilled. But it was simply too much for her small cadre of volunteers.
“Everything has to come to an end sometime, and I hate that,” she said. “I appreciate all the community support, the tree sponsors, the tree decorators, the schools – everyone who was involved.”
Keep Johnston County Beautiful is close to its goal of $60,000 for the architectural survey and book, a joint project with the Johnston County Heritage Center.
“We’ve got a good start now where we can talk to publishers to say we’ve got $20,000 to get a proof done,” Woodard said.
In addition to the survey, Keep Johnston County Beautiful wants to work with groups like the Smithfield Appearance Commission and on anti-littering and recycling efforts.
Woodard said she hopes the Festival of Trees can make a comeback next year. “If people miss it, maybe we’ll get more people interested in helping out next year,” she said.
The festival would not have been possible without a fantastic team of volunteers and support from the community, Woodard said.
“It’s a wonderful project, and I’m glad we were able to do that for the community,” she said.