Come experience Christmas as though it were 1866! The San Joaquin Historical Society and Museum welcomes everyone to the 28th annual Festival of Trees on Dec. 7 and 8.
“It wouldn’t be unusual to walk onto the museum grounds and see people dressed like they came from ‘Little House on the Prairie,’” says volunteer docent and event organizer Christi Weybret.
Docents and volunteers want to create a Victorian Christmas atmosphere, so they will be dressing the part.
They won’t be the only ones dressed up. More than 60 Christmas trees will be uniquely decorated and scattered throughout the grounds for visitors to view.
Every year, individuals and organizations fill out an application to enter the Festival of Trees. There are no themes set by the museum, so each group or individual is responsible for coming up with a clever and entertaining way to decorate their tree.
The name and description of each tree will be printed in a program that visitors can use for a self-guided tour around the museum campus.
Weybret enjoys the creativity displayed each year. She believes it is a chance to get people enjoying the creativity of others and to inspire more ideas that one could do in their own home.
She recalls a tree decorated by docent Virginia Moore at a previous festival. Moore decorated the tree as though she was a senior who had simply forgotten to decorate half of it.
“On one tree branch there were car keys hanging there, and then on another tree branch there were eyeglasses,” Weybret says. “You know, it was just perfect how it showed how we all have that senior moment when we kind of forget something — it was hysterical!”
Jackie Sinigaglia, chairwoman for this year’s Festival of Trees, enjoys the family-friendly atmosphere of the event.
“All of the docents have put so many hours into it,” she says proudly. “It sounds corny, but it warms your heart.”
Sinigaglia points out that the event caters to many different age groups. While grandparents seem to be most interested in the trees, she says, there is no shortage of activities for all ages.
Families have the option to refuel at a food truck, or they can stop in at the Victorian tea room for a piece of cake with tea or punch. After a stroll through Santa’s Village, adults are invited to browse amongst vendors selling homemade items, and the boutique where many docents will be selling the crafts they have been working on for months.
“My husband turns wood bowls, and he’s donated some of those,” Sinigaglia says.
Children can try crafts that were typical of what pioneer children did in the 1800s: candle dipping, tin ornament punching, and making rag dolls. They can ride a wagon about the museum grounds, and decorate cookies once they have worked up an appetite.
“The cookies don’t really make it out of the building — they get gobbled up right away,” Sinigaglia says.
The event is a huge fundraiser for the educational programs offered by the museum like Valley Days, Pioneer School and Farm-to-Fork, she says. Through these living history programs, local children get to experience what life was like in the 1800s, as well as learn about farming and agriculture.
“And it’s wonderful to see the kids go back into what life looked like in an 1800s classroom,” Sinigaglia says. “We hear that that’s what kids remember about their third-grade year.”
The Senior Preview is from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6 and tickets are $5 in advance (which includes the parking fee). There are no children’s activities that day, but the boutique is open, the trees are up, and all the docents will be there to welcome visitors.