Holiday season kicks off with Riverside Children’s Theatre Festival of Trees

VERO BEACH — Vero’s holiday season got off to a wonderful start Friday night with the Riverside Children’s Theatre 12th Annual Festival of Trees Gala Preview Party. 

New twinkling star lights, donated by Gena and Tyler Grove and woven into the magnificent oak trees outside the theatre entrance, welcomed guests into a delightful winter wonderland created by artists, volunteers and local businesses.

The acoustical sounds of talented RCT carolers resounded in the lobby entrance and added to the festive ambiance as festival goers arrived.  Linda Downey, RCT Director of Education briefly thanked the George E. Warren Corporation and Chelsea’s on Cardinal as Presenting Sponsors, the Shoemate Foundation as Gala Sponsors, and the other major donors before pulling the switch to light up all the beautifully decorated trees.

This year’s Hands around the World theme provided a special international twist to the event, with trees, wreaths and gingerbread houses designed with a global flair.  Designers began months ago, creating and fine-tuning concepts and collecting or crafting all the elements for their pieces.  The actual tree decorating process began about a week before the event in the Anne Morton Theatre, with artisans spending hours perfecting their designs.

With 48 trees and more than 20 wreaths, and despite a few mishaps that resulted in a slightly reduced gingerbread village, this is the largest festival to date.  In addition to the Richardson Room, with some of the smaller trees, and the Ann Morton Theatre, which housed the larger trees and gingerbread village, the RCT dance studio was also opened up this year to provide a little extra elbow room.  Guests wandered through the maze of rooms and along the Hall of Wreaths trying to take it all in, with some staking a claim by their favorite tree.

Following along with the theme, Chef Patrick Festa of Chelsea’s on Cardinal prepared a host of fabulous international foods.  There was an Asian station with sushi and Hoisin-glazed ribs and a South of the Border station where you could build your own chicken or steak fajita with all the fixings – served in a martini glass.  The Mediterranean station had all variety of skewered foods, from cheeses and olives to chicken and lamb, while the Made in USA station contained mini hotdogs and pizza.  Dessert featured a decadent assortment of colorfully iced cupcakes.

Sixteen vendor booths were sprinkled throughout the rooms, representing boutiques from Vero Beach and as far away as Maryland and Illinois.  Guests enjoyed browsing through a variety of tempting items that were perfect for a little holiday shopping.  There were also several appealing silent auction gift selections, and a drawing for chances to one of two fabulous four-day trips to either Beaver Creek, Colorado or San Francisco.

The Festival of Trees steering committee included Kathie Althoff, Amanda Ford, Lyn Law, Diane Lembo and ZoAnne Merrill, and the Preview Gala was co-chaired by Rossy Harper and Sabrina Starr. The money raised by this major fundraiser for Riverside Children’s Theatre enables it to provide educational programs, arts and cultural enrichment to children from ages three and older in areas such as drama, dance, film and technical theatre.

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