This year's Festival of Trees at Grand Boulevard was unveiled last week and it is possibly the most awe-inspiring yet. This is the fest's fourth year.
For the fourth year, charities competed in a Christmas tree decorating contest. The tree decorators got hugely creative this year, especially in the case of the two winners: Alaqua Animal Refuge and Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation.
Alaqua took first place in the judges' votes and people's choice. DCWAF took second in the judges' votes. The last win for Alaqua was the festival's first year, when the organization took People's Choice.
Judging was based on visual impact, creativity, how well it reflects the organization's mission, and overall impression.
Judges thought those two organizations hit it out of the park on those points.
AAR founder Laurie Hood said she can take no credit for the win as it was orchestrated by her friend and Refuge volunteer Laurie Kelly and her husband, Brant, who designed and worked on the display for weeks.
The Kellys made fencing, which they placed around the back of the tree, and cut out dogs, cats, and horses, and placed bales of hay around the base.
"It was amazingly creative," said Hood.
The Kellys' creativity enabled AAR to take home $4,000.
DCWAF also outdid themselves in their depiction of what their organization does.
All the ornaments on their tree were made by hand, using wine-bottle corks and a glue gun to form bunches of "grapes." Wine crates tied with ribbons were placed underneath the tree and empty wine bottles were used to form a tree of their own. DCWAF staff also handed out wine samples on opening night.
Emerald Coast Relay for Life handed out cupcakes, symbolic of the hope that a cure for cancer is found and everyone sees another birthday.
The rest of this year’s participating organizations include Building Homes for Heroes, Children in Crisis, Children's Volunteer Health Network, Emerald Coast Children's Advocacy Center, Fisher House of the Emerald Coast, Guardian Ad Litem, Junior League of the Emerald Coast, OASIS of Northwest Florida, and Shelter House.
Stop by Grand Boulevard and see just how creative and different the 12 trees are.