Deck the Trees community benefit returns to Black Mountain for its 11th year
Deck the Trees returns to Black Mountain for its 11th year this December, a Christmas tree decorating contest fundraiser to benefit the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry Fuel Fund.
"Every year I say it's the best year and I mean it," laughed Libba Fairleigh, the head of the Deck the Trees committee. "And this is the best year, and I mean it."
Over the years, the contest has raised a total of $150,000, according to Fairleigh. Last year it raised $36,000 and Fairleigh said more is raised each year.
Funds are raised through donations from sponsors and through voting. Locals and visitors can vote for their favorite tree by donating to that tree.
The contest runs from Dec. 2 through Jan. 4 with awards given to the tree that raises the most money and the tree that most represents the theme. Trees are decorated by local businesses, artisans, religious groups, community members and the fire department.
"We have different judges every year to select the tree that most represents the theme," Fairleigh said. "I never tell who the judges are because I don't want them to be unduly influenced."
Judges are typically chosen by the committee from the sponsors as a another way for the sponsors to participate in the contest.
Gary Paben, a former judge of the contest with a theatrical background as a former producer for Disney, said every year the trees are beautiful. One of two other judges, Paben said choosing a favorite was difficult.
"We really judge them on the creativity and how well they adhere to the theme," Paben said. "They're all beautiful, I mean, how can you have an ugly Christmas tree?"
The theme for this year's contest was chosen with the input of sponsors and contest participants from the previous year. The Deck the Trees committee chose three options, but "A Black Mountain Christmas" overwhelmingly won out.
The Monte Vista Boutique Hotel sponsors the event, hosting many of the contest trees at the hotel, with the other entries spread out across town at local establishments.
"It is a joy to host this event every year," said Curt Davis, the manager of the hotel. "To be able to support the fuel fund is a huge way for us to give back to our community to those who support us all year long."
Under new management, the hotel expanded the tree locations to the community, now hosting 21 contestants while the community hosts 24 across town.
Deck the Trees began as a collaboration between the hotel and a local artisan. Fairleigh became involved the next year and helped turn the contest into a fundraiser.
Initially the committee hoped to vary charities each year but decided on the fuel fund as they saw the benefit it provided the community, particularly in the winter. Fairleigh said the first few years didn't raise much money but soon gained traction through sponsorship.
"It's going to a great cause," Fairleigh said.