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The 2022 Festival of Trees was a “WYN win”

Boone, NC — Beginning in mid-November, brightly decorated Christmas trees and wreaths began appearing across the High Country as part of the eighth annual Western Youth Network (WYN) annual Festival of Trees. Displayed in area restaurants, retail shops, hotels, medical offices and recreation centers, more than 100 trees and wreaths were available for bidders to purchase through an online auction.

Through the auction proceeds, sponsorships and donations, the festival raised over $100,000 for WYN — funds which will sustain the organization’s after school activities, summer camp, mentoring program and other initiatives to address childhood adversity and enable youth of the community to reach their full potential.

The festival included a self-guided tour of trees, a wreath-making workshop, a hot chocolate social at the Watauga Recreation Center, a “Share the Spirit” breakfast at Chetola’s Timberlake Restaurant and a $20k-in-one-day challenge which ended during the Festival Finale held at Ransom Pub and Event Venue in Boone on December 1.

Lizzie Lowe (left), assisted by Jesse Sebastian, led the WYN Festival of Trees wreath making workshop, sponsored by Mountain Lumber Company. Participants designed more than 50 wreaths which were auctioned to raise money for WYN.

“I love the community energy and momentum around this event each year,” said Jennifer Warren, executive director of WYN. “There are so many individuals and organizations who come together in varying ways to make the event so fun and successful. It feels like the entire community is rallying around us and supporting us.”

Warren mentioned WYN is growing in response to increased demand for its services, and the timing of the event was helpful in funding that growth.

The 2022 Festival expanded to more locations, including several new participating partners in Ashe and Avery Counties. The dispersion of the decorated trees into the community — a move prompted by the pandemic in 2020 — opened up opportunities for designers to participate in their own locations or other high-traffic areas. “It has been a huge win for WYN since people who may have never heard of us are now familiar because the businesses they visit hosted trees,” Warren said.

Jenny Koehn, chair of the Festival committee, added, “The Festival has evolved over the years and we appreciate how every designer, sponsor and donor has helped the event become the success that it is today. Our supporters are the heart of the event, and for many of them — who have returned year after year — the festival has become part of their holiday tradition. The event provides a creative way to give and support the local youth, and provides sponsors and designers positive publicity as well.”

The Leslie Eason Real Estate Team with Keller Williams Realty was the Presenting Sponsor for the Festival.

In addition to raising money for the non-profit organization, building awareness about WYN is a key goal of the Festival. Over the years, the Festival has introduced people to the mission of WYN and has resulted in new mentors for the children, new volunteers and new donors who have become regular investors in the organization’s programs. 

Several decorated trees and more than 60 wreathes — contributed by florists, interior designers, local businesses and participants in a wreath workshop — were displayed in the Watauga Community Recreation Center as part of the WYN Festival of Trees. The public was invited to view the wreathes and trees during a Hot Chocolate Social, sponsored by The Speckled Trout Outfitters
Kate Stucke (left) and Stacey Gibson, both members of the planning committee for WYN’s Festival of Trees, entertained the crowd at the Festival Finale on December 1, sponsored by Carolina West Wireless and held at Ransom Pub and Event Venue in Boone

WYN’s executive director, Jennifer Warren (standing), welcomed guests to the “Share the Spirit” breakfast, sponsored by Dr. Adam Hill Dentistry and held at Chetola’s Timberlake Restaurant during the WYN Festival of Trees. Chetola Resort sponsored the $20K-in-one-day fundraising push launched at the breakfast