NEWELL—The Newell Festival of Trees held its annual event on Saturday, December 2 at the Newell City Hall. This highly anticipated day serves as the largest and most important fundraiser of the year for the local emergency services, including the Newell Ambulance Service and the Nisland-Arpan, Vale, and Newell Fire Departments.
The festival saw an impressive turnout of attendees from the local community and out-of-town visitors alike. The main highlight of the festival was the live auction, where a variety of Christmas trees, holiday decorations, and hunting trips were sold. In addition, a silent auction offered a variety of great Christmas gifts and other items to the attendees. The live auction featured a total of 65 items, with countless more available in the silent auction. Bryton Oedekoven, who served as the event’s auctioneer, ensured a lively and engaging atmosphere throughout the evening. Other fundraising activities included a 50/50 raffle and several prize drawings.
Attendees were given the opportunity to vote for their favorite trees in three different categories: Seniors’ Choice, People’s Choice, and Most Unique. For Seniors’ Choice, the winner was a snowman tree, donated by Tots n’ Twenty, which sold for $225. Snowmen continued to come out on top as a tree made from tires and painted to look like a snowman took home the Most Unique category. This tree was donated by the Newell Ambulance Service and brought $120. Finally, the People’s Choice for the best tree in the show was a beautiful red and white tree donated by Western Diesel & Mechanical, LLC, and it raised an impressive $500.
According to Laura Wierzbicki, the Festival of Trees raised approximately $22,000 last year. While the total amount raised this year is still being calculated, fundraising efforts are likely to be just as successful, if not more than previous years. The funds raised during the festival are vital in ensuring the continued operation and improvement of the emergency services in the area, and typically go toward maintaining facilities and buying crucial new equipment that only gets more expensive as it evolves.
Newell mayor, Ken Wetz, recalled a time before emergency service units were available in the area. Years ago, Wetz witnessed a car crash in Nisland. With no help in sight, he held a victim’s head, bleeding and with a broken jaw, in his hands. “I waited an hour and a half for an ambulance,” he said. “And that’s why we need emergency services in this part of the county.”
All in all, Newell’s 2023 Festival of Trees was yet another success. The success of the event can be attributed to the hard work and dedication of organizers Kurt and Sheri Hocking, the generosity of those who donated and bought items, everyone who volunteered to help, and everyone who showed up to support rural emergency services. The Festival of Trees remains a testament to the power of community, showcasing what can be accomplished when people come together for a cause.