Festival of Trees turns 20

Tree lighting ceremony returns, kicks off event Thanksgiving night

by Tom Coombe
In two decades time, the Festival of Trees has become a staple of the holiday season in Ely.
The 20th festival begins in grand manner, as usual, on Thanksgiving night with a tree-lighting ceremony back on the docket after the Covid-19 pandemic prompted cancellations the last two years.
The ceremony begins at 5 p.m. at the Grand Ely Lodge and is open to the public, as the lobby is turned into a winter wonderland of sorts and filled with decorated Christmas trees, wreaths, chairs for care and a holiday boutique.
The festival remains a fundraiser for Northwoods Partners, which provides an array of services for Ely’s elderly, and organizers have watched in wonder as it has taken off in popularity.
“After the third or fourth festival we worried about a saturated market, how many people in Ely will need a tree?” said Shirley Sayovitz, who has been involved since the event’s beginning.
“Now, 20 years later, we continue to sell almost everything. The highlight of the festival is watching people’s face light up when they first see the trees and wreaths. We have unbelievable talent in Ely,” said Sayovitz.
Generous contributions from individuals and an impressive assortment of talent have made the festival a must-see event for many in the community.
“We are so grateful to all the individuals who help make the Festival of Trees a wonderful fundraising event to support services for our area seniors and caregivers,” said Lisa Porthan, executive director of Northwoods Partners. “It has become a wonderful tradition that makes such a difference in our community.”
Porthan said that one of the favorite trees is the tall white Memorial Tree is at the center of the event. Memorial balls may be purchased throughout the holiday season to remember or honor a loved one.
“This is truly a special way to celebrate the special people in our lives,” said Porthan.
The Memorial Tree will be displayed at the Grand Ely Lodge until Dec. 28.
Along with the trees is the Northwoods Partners Christmas Boutique. It includes a vast selection hand-made gift items available for purchase.
Bidding for trees and other festival items, meanwhile begins on Thanksgiving and continues through Dec. 4. Bidders are invited to come back often to check and perhaps raise their bid.
Monies raised will be used by Northwoods Partners to provide support services that promote healthy aging and independence. These services include friendly visits, transportation, exercise programs, support groups, memory care support and caregiver consultant services. These services are provided to individuals living in Ely, Babbitt, Tower and surrounding townships.
Interest in the event remains strong as it approaches its 20th anniversary.
Linda Fink is another long-time organizer and has been impressed by the festival’s staying power and progress.
“Twenty years of trees, wreaths, garlands, Christmas gifts, and decor adds up to a busy community with one goal in mind,” said Fink. “Through the years, there have been subtle changes, always evolving to pique the interest of buyers and raise funds for Northwoods Partners. Our enthusiasm has always run high and has been reinforced by the support and talents of our businesses, artists, and crafters. The GEL has worked with us since the beginning, and provided a lovely venue for local and visiting shoppers.”
At the conclusion of the festival, all winners will be notified to pick up their items at the Grand Ely Lodge.
For further information, contact Northwoods Partners at 365-8019.