A magical winter wonderland of wreaths and trees transforms the architectural spaces of the Nantucket Whaling Museum into an enchanted holiday forest throughout Nantucket’s winter holiday season.
Beginning with the NHA Festival of Wreaths, a free community event held the week of Thanksgiving in the Peter Foulger Gallery of the Whaling Museum, this event displays the artistic talent of more than 80 community members who create and design wreaths for a silent auction that benefits the Nantucket Historical Association (NHA). Each wreath is a unique interpretation of the classic holiday decoration, revealing the inventive flare and profound individuality that epitomize Nantucketers themselves. From traditionally decorated green wreaths to wreaths designed from silk ties, origami cranes, and even Crayola crayons, the Festival of Wreaths truly celebrates this island’s creative diversity. The 2012 Festival of Wreaths is held November 21- 25 (closed Thanksgiving Day).
“The Festival of Wreaths is a real community of people that includes all aspects of Nantucket,” says Judi Hill, who chairs the Festival of Wreaths with her husband Greg. “So many organizations on Nantucket create wreaths and tell the story of their work through it. Among the creativity, there is a fun, competitive aspect to the Festival of Wreaths as well: everyone enjoys seeing what everyone else has created.”
In support of the NHA’s mission and educational programs, wreath designers create and donate their works of art for the Festival of Wreaths silent auction. The auction takes place throughout the four days of the festival, providing attendees with ample opportunities to visit and revisit their favorite wreath to increase their bid. Winning bidders are announced on the last day of the Festival, Sunday November 25, at 2:30 P.M.
“I love being creative and I push myself to do something different that people haven’t seen before,” says long-time Festival of Wreaths designer Beth Moyer. “It’s challenging to come up with different materials and looks each year, and I love finding an unexpected material and turning it into a beautiful wreath. It was the creativity that got me started the first year, but it’s the challenge of always coming up with something new that keeps me coming back year after year….This year I made my wreath out of dried milkweed pods.”
By stroll weekend, the Whaling Museum will be transformed into a woodland of more than 80 trees that are decorated and designed by local merchants, nonprofit organizations, community members, school children and artists for the 19th Annual NHA Festival of Trees. On display throughout December, this magical atmosphere captures the heart of the holidays. Tree designers offer their talent for the enjoyment and inspiration of each visitor and infuse their art and energy with the spirit of the season. Some designers decorate traditional green trees with ornamental themes, while others build their own tree or create holiday vignettes. Like the Festival of Wreaths, the Festival of Trees encapsulates Nantucket’s enterprising spirit of individuality, art, and a nod toward beauty. The Festival of Trees is free for all NHA members and children under 6, $5 for year-round island residents, and $17 for other adults.
“The Festival of Trees is the essence of Christmas and it is a fantastic way to kick off the season on Nantucket,” says Jack Fritsch, 2011 and 2012 chair of the Festival of Trees, with his wife Ciara. “It brings out the best in everyone.”
Not only have the Fritschs chaired the festival for the last two years, they have been annual tree and vignette designers as well. In 2011, the Fritschs designed “20,000 Leagues under the Sea,” which featured Santa as a deep sea diver suspended from the ceiling of the Whaling Museum, reaching down under the sea to place a star atop the tree. The vignette was completed with a myriad of seas creatures, including starfish, lobsters, and oysters, all ready to receive their Christmas gifts.
For Nantucket architect Mark Cutone, “the Festival of Trees is a wonderful opportunity for local businesses and organizations to contribute something creative that expresses who they are. Each tree is often a bit of a surprise and I enjoy seeing the crowds take that moment to understand the theme — it often results in a smile or even a laugh.” Regarding his designs, Cutone says, “We like retro themes that people can relate to. Our tree installations are really vignettes that invite attendees to participate – they may even sit with us a while and feel as though they were propelled back 30-40 years.”
The creativity is truly an awe-inspiring experience that seems to increase annually. While some designers have used gardening equipment, paper, and even beer bottles to form a tree, many designers develop a unique theme in decorating a traditional evergreen tree. Karen Elverson decorates a tree each year with a group of friends who have been having lunch together for 17 years. Elverson says, “My personal favorite tree we decorated was called “Sirens of the Sea”. All the ladies brought mermaids, shells, blue lights and sea creatures to use as decorations. I made a large sparkly mermaid as our tree topper.”
In the midst of the Festival of Wreaths, A Night of Holiday Magic is held in the Whaling Museum on December 15 from 5-8 P.M. This family event invites the community to experience the sight and sounds of the holiday season with the melodic sounds of carols performed by the Nantucket High School Accidentals and Naturals singing group, holiday crafts, and seasonal treats. Tree designers whose talents are featured in the NHA’s Festival of Trees will also be on-hand to guide the creation of ornaments and other crafts. A Night of Holiday Magic is free for children and $5 for accompanying adults.
“What better way to celebrate the holiday season than in the company of family and friends surrounded by the sights, sounds, and treats of A Night of Holiday Magic,” says Melissa Kershaw, Outreach & Public Programs Coordinator for the NHA. “This family-friendly event combines beautifully decorated display of the Festival of Trees with music, dance performances, arts and crafts for the whole family, and seasonal delights. A Night of Holiday Magic is quickly becoming a cherished holiday tradition on Nantucket and we look forward to sharing the magic with our friends again this year.”
For more information about the Festival of Wreaths, the Festival of Trees, and A Night of Holiday Magic, please visit www.nha.org or call 508-228-1894.