METHUEN — It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas on Branch Street thanks to more than 200 businesses, schools, community organizations and individuals.
And just a few thousand twinkle lights, ornaments and garland.
This Friday, the 19th annual Festival of Trees kicks off in the Valley Office Park at 13 Branch St. The opening night features the fourth annual “Taste of the Festival,” a culinary celebration featuring specialty foods from 25 local restaurants and a guest appearance by chef and restaurateur Paul Wahlberg of Hingham’s Alma Nove and Wahlburgers. Tickets for the evening culinary event are $50 each. It is also the night when the festival’s 225 unique and amazing Christmas trees are unveiled.
Created by businesses, families, schools, community organizations and non-profits, and highly creative individuals, the trees at the festival are not your standard Christmas trees. From a tree entirely decorated with hedgehog ornaments, including a large, stuffed hedgehog tree topper, to a pink neon tree from a local spa featuring nail polish and lip gloss as ornaments, to a tree made entirely made of toy fire trucks, each one represents the creator’s idea of the holiday season, and each one will be raffled off with the proceeds benefiting Methuen’s Preservation Grant Program.
To date, the Festival of Trees has contributed $1.2 million to fund more than 140 preservation projects throughout the Merrimack Valley, including the restoration of the Tenney Gatehouse, the repair and refurbishing of the two-miles of walls and turrets that surround the city of Methuen and the restoration of the stained-glass windows at the Nevins Memorial Library.
“This just gets bigger and better every year,” said Festival Tree Coordinator Cindy Mazella. She said the festival has come a long way from the 17 trees it featured in its first year.
“We held it at the library and it was only open for one weekend,” Mazella said, adding that it raised $2,200 to help complete the Tenney Gatehouse restoration.