FARMINGTON — The community center buzzed with excitement, wonder and remembrance Saturday, Dec. 7, as folks milled about viewing intricately decorated trees and wreaths on display for the Rotary’s annual Festival of Trees.

A tree decorated with patches from fire service and law enforcement departments honors the heroism of Farmington firefighters and first responders. Dee Menear/Franklin Journal Buy this Photo

The dozens of full-size and tabletop trees and many wreaths had been decorated by individuals, organizations and businesses.

At the center, was a tree decorated with patches from fire service and law enforcement departments throughout Maine and beyond. The tree honored the heroism of Farmington Fire Rescue Department firefighters and first responders. It also commemorated the statewide effort to support the department after the Sept. 16 explosion at LEAP, Inc. that killed Fire Capt. Michael Bell and seriously injured six others.

UMF Friends of the Lord Family sponsored a special tree, decorated with colorful paper cranes, in honor of Larry Lord, the LEAP maintenance supervisor critically injured in the explosion.

Based on the book “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes” by Eleanor Coerr, the tree represented 1,000 wishes of hope and healing for Larry Lord and his family.

The tree was displayed on the stage, high above other trees. Visitors were encouraged to leave their own written message of healing for the Lords.

Another tree, Buffalo Plaid, was displayed in honor of Tom Eastler, a University of Maine at Farmington professor, a retired United States Air Force colonel and racewalking coach, who passed away in September 2018.

1,000 Cranes of Hope, by UMF Friends of the Lord Family, represents 1,000 wishes of hope and healing for Larry Lord and family. Dee Menear/Franklin Journal Buy this Photo

Community members were invited to bring their own ornaments to hang on the community tree. The tree featured a paper chain garland, which visitors added links to throughout the day. Before adding their link, people were encouraged to write their thoughts on why the community was special on the strips of paper.

“People”, “friends”, and “sense of belonging” were among the sentiments shared.

Regional School Unit 9 was heavily represented with a half dozen entries, said Superintendent and Rotarian Tina Meserve. RSU 9 central office staff, Cascade Brook School Next Act, Mt. Blue Middle School Impact, and Mt. Blue High School Interact and Teen Voices had trees on display. Students in grade K-2 Early Act entered a star-studded wreath, she said.

Trees were auctioned off at the end of the day. “This is our biggest fundraiser of the year and we use the money all year long to support charitable deeds locally and internationally,” said Susy Sanders, event chairperson. “We support many and most local charities. The money all goes to charitable giving.”

The fundraiser brought in $29,000, Sanders said, which is the largest amount to date.

More than two dozen trees were on display at the community center Saturday, Dec. 7, for Farmington Rotary’s annual Festival of Trees. Dee Menear/Franklin Journal

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