Lawrence’s Festival of Trees shows off Christmas creativity to benefit The Shelter Inc.

Angie Jackson, Lawrence, adjusts the yellow brick road ribbon on a Wizard of Oz inspired tree sponsored by the Animal Hospital of Lawrence in preparation for the 2010 Lawrence Festival of Trees Sunday at Liberty Hall. The tree, which is upside down to represent the tornado and topped with a miniature Emerald City, will spin when it is completed. The festival, which begins Monday, supports The Shelter Inc.

Melanie Freeman, Lawrence, fits a top hat on top of a Christmas tree called A Black Tie Affair sponsored by Aneita’s Alterations Sunday in preparation for the 2010 Lawrence Festival of Trees.

Shannon Miller, Lawrence, assembles a Christmas tree sponsored by Hillside Village of De Soto on Sunday in preparation for the 2010 Lawrence Festival of Trees at Liberty Hall. The festival, which begins today, supports The Shelter Inc.

Liberty Hall transformed into an enchanted forest Sunday afternoon as Christmas trees of every shape, size, color and theme sprouted from the floorboards. From mountain dew to fairy princesses, this year’s Festival of Trees to benefit The Shelter Inc. promises a little bit of everything.

“Every year is unique,” said Judy Culley, director of the Shelter. “Every time you think you’ve seen everything you realize you really haven’t.”

Close to 60 trees filled the room for this year’s festival, now in its 24th year. The trees, decorated and donated by local businesses, organizations, families and individuals, will be auctioned off at Tuesday night’s gala event. Last year’s bids earned close to $38,000. Culley said the money is used as a sort of emergency/growth fund that allows the shelter to start new projects and enhance its services to children in need; however, Culley said it is not the money that makes the festival so special.

“It’s wonderful to see all these different types of people working and coming together to help kids in need,” Culley said.

Members of the Visiting Nurses Association in Lawrence worked together to create their tree titled, “VNA Fairy Merry Christmas.” Different types of fairies from all over the U.S. are hidden between the branches, covered with sparkling garland and other magical-looking decorations. Ken Gimblet and his wife, Mitzie, even helped put together miniature fairy houses made and decorated from wood, logs, sticks, twigs and other elements of nature. The couple began looking for the materials two months ago.

“The most challenging part was finding the different materials, but seeing it all put together makes it worth it,” Ken said.

Other tree donators began their hunt for materials several months in advance. Members of Douglas County Master Gardeners had to begin in June in order to have materials gathered in time. The “Spice of Life” tree they donated for this year’s auction holds about 40 different herbs and spices that were homegrown by members of the organization. The lucky bidder will walk away with bottles of parsley, rosemary, curry, aromatics and several other spices along with a recipe book.

While trees usually dominate the festival, one group decided to break away from the traditional display. Susan Schuette-Buchanan and her friends Patty and Sarah McGuire designed and decorated a mantel with hanging stockings. The piece, called “Eco Elegance,” was put together with items found at thrift stores, garage sales and other second-hand shops. The $35 Craigslist mantle has now transformed into an elegant display for the women’s unique, handmade stockings.

“We wanted to make something beautiful out of used stuff,” Schuette-Buchanan said. “We love creating art, but when you can create and help charity at the same time it’s double the fun.”