Dozens of volunteers were bustling around the Burr Homestead this week, assembling wreaths and hanging lights and decorations for the 31st Annual Christmas Tree Festival, which kicks off tonight.
Since 1981, the Festival has not only set the stage for the holiday season in Fairfield, but has raised millions of dollars for worthy organizations.
This year the Festival board chose two community staples as beneficiaries: the Cardinal Shehan Center in Bridgeport and Bridgeport Hospital's Norma F. Pfriem Care Center, which has sites at the hospital, in Fairfield, and in Trumbull.
The Cardinal Shehan Center is a nonprofit organization that offers educational, recreational, and social afterschool programs to moderate and low-income families and young people in Fairfield County. The Norma F. Pfriem Breast Cancer Care Centers deliver breast cancer diagnostic and preventative care, treatment, and support to women and teens, regardless of ability to pay for health care.
Together, the organizations are trying to bring educational outreach, mammograms, and other diagnostic care to as many medically uninsured or underinsured women as possible, according to Donna Twist, executive director of the cancer care centers in Fairfield and Bridgeport.
The funds raised by the Festival will help the two centers bring that care to more women, like the mothers who bring their children to the Cardinal Shehan Center -- or even teens who use the center. The Cardinal Shehan Center serves more than 4,000 children and teens a year, executive director Terry O'Connor said -- meaning thousands of women and families can benefit from this joint venture.
The theme of this year's Christmas Tree Festival is 'A Season We Share,' based on the two organizations' mutual commitment.
In addition to raising money to benefit the Cardinal Shehan Center and the Norma F. Pfriem Breast Cancer Care Centers, the people behind the Fairfield Christmas Tree Festival hope the weekend-long event will spur the holiday spirit in town, especially in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Some of the Festival's board members' homes were badly damaged, but they came "showed up with all the energy" they usually do to decorate and prepare, Donna Craft, a board member, said.
"We're hoping the event will put people in the spirit, those that weren't otherwise -- especially in the beach area." Craft said. Christmas Tree Festival President Moira Rachel agreed as she set about decorating one of the first rooms in the Burr Homestead.
The Festival kicks off tonight with the Sharing a Toast Around the World Wine Tasting and Beer Garden event. The Burr Homestead will open to the public on Friday through Sunday -- here is the schedule and other information:
- Friday, Nov. 30: 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
- Saturday, Dec. 1: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
- Sunday, Dec. 2: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children and seniors. The Burr Homestead is located at 739 Old Post Road.
- Friday, Nov. 30: 1 p.m. - 4 p.m.
- Saturday, Dec. 1: 10 a.m. - 5 p.n.
- Sunday, Dec. 2: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
- Sharing is Caring Children's Event: Friday, Nov. 30, 5 p.m. - 7 p.m. Children must be accompanied by an adult and RSVP is required. Admission is $20/person.
- A Season We Share Holiday Gala: 6:30 p.m. - 7 p.m. House Preview, 7 p.m. - 10 p.m. Holiday Gala Party, RSVP required and festive cocktail attire. Click here for ticket pricing.
- Share a Cup of Tea: Sunday, Dec. 2, 12 p.m. - 2 p.m. RSVP required. Admission is $50/person.
- Quilt Raffle Drawing: Sunday, Dec. 2, 3 p.m. Tickets are $5 for one of Cecily Zerega's famous quilts. The beneficiary of this year's quilt raffle is Emerge, Inc., an organization that provides safe housing and support services for homeless women and children who are survivors of domestic violence.