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Every year, through the month of December, the lobby of the historic Monte Vista Hotel in Black Mountain transforms into a holiday wonderland, featuring Christmas trees decorated by local businesses and community organizations. 

As Deck the Trees returns for its ninth year, organizers believe the 2019 presentation of the annual fundraiser, which benefits the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry Fuel Fund, is the best one yet. 

Twenty-seven trees, carefully arranged throughout the first floor of the 82-year-old brick building on West State Street, were decorated according to the theme—"Go Tell it On the Mountain." Each submission features a unique twist on the classic Christmas gospel. 

This year's submissions feature some of the most creative interpretations of a theme, according to Libba Fairleigh, who has been organizing the event since its second year.

"They are absolutely fantastic this year," Fairleigh said. "I'm always amazed by the creativity of the trees, but everyone really outdid themselves this year."

Visitors vote for their favorites by placing money in boxes near the trees they choose. Each dollar counts as a vote and all of the proceeds are donated to the SVCM Fuel Fund, which provides heating assistance to Swannanoa Valley residents in need.

“Deck the Trees is just one of the amazing ways this giving community comes together to help those in need in our community, said SVCM Executive Director Cheryl Wilson.  "This event raises much needed funding so that SVCM can ensure our elderly, working poor and families can stay warm each winter.” 

The benefit, which is sponsored by area businesses, has raised nearly $100,000 since its first year. 

The Swannanoa Valley Museum and History Center is among the entries this year. The organization's Christmas tree, located in the bar area of the hotel, features wooden medallions representing each peek of mountains around the Swannanoa Rim. The tree is a "must-see" for anyone who has hiked these mountains, Fairleigh said.

The decorations by Black Mountain Girl Scout Troop 2498 feature paper dolls, equipped with hiking gear, depicting members of the troop. Cardboard cutouts of mountain peaks, featuring the elevations of each, and quotes inspired by the outdoors, adorn the branches. 

Each mountain in the Seven Sisters range, which hovers prominently over the valley below, is represented by its own tree in the entry from the Black Mountain Fire Department. Visitors will be moved by the display upon seeing the names of the firefighters and the recognition of those who have been killed in the line of duty.

The Black Mountain Beautification Committee is using its "How To Save The Pollinators" tree to call attention to preserving the habitats of bees and butterflies. Votes for this entry will be cast in a wicker bee hive. 

Other entries feature items that can be taken home by visitors, like miniature paintings by the artists from the Swannanoa Valley Fine Arts League, handmade hats from the tree created by Carolyn Johnson, or reusable shopping bags from the “There Is No Planet B” tree.

Donations can also be made through checks made out to the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry. 

"This is an important cause that the community generously supports every year," Fairleigh said of the fuel fund, which provides assistance to hundreds of families every winter. "It's also a great outing for friends, families coworkers and anyone who is looking for something to do to celebrate the holidays."

Norvin and Shannon Dickerson were among the first people to view the trees in the Monte Vista this year. 

"We come every year," Shannon said. "We know several of the people who decorate trees and we always bring a few dollar bills to vote for several of our favorites. It's one of our favorite things to do around the holidays."

Deck the Trees is free and open to the public and can be viewed between the hours of 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. through the end of the year. The trees will remain on display until prizes are awarded on Monday, Jan. 6. 

"This event gets more popular each year," Fairleigh said. "It really represents a lot of what makes this community so special, from the creativity of the trees to the generosity of the voters, entrants and sponsors who come together to support the efforts of the Ministry."

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