Deck the Trees winners announced, contest sets fundraising record

Ezra Maille
Black Mountain News
Herschel's won a Deck the Trees award for best representing the theme from the community selection.

Deck the Trees, a community fundraiser-style Christmas tree decorating contest in Black Mountain, broke its record for money raised by nearly $5,000. 

The contest, which benefits the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry Fuel Fund, raised more than $41,000 this year, a significant increase from last year's amount of just over $36,000. 

"We have never raised that much over a previous year," said Libba Farleigh, the head of the Deck the Trees committee. "We were stunned and humbled that it did as well as it did." 

After a semi-virtual contest the previous year, Farleigh said the committee had doubts on how impactful this year's fundraiser would be, especially using a virtual giving system of checks and QR codes. She said the community was generous, recognizing and responding to the need. 

A graphic from the Deck the Trees committee shows the steady increase of funds raised during the contest over the past five years.

The trees in the contest fell into two groups: 21 were displayed in the Monte Vista Hotel, the host of the event, and 24 were displayed in businesses throughout the community. The two groups were judged on which tree in each group most represented the theme of "A Black Mountain Christmas" and which trees raised the most funds. 

The Monte Vista tree judged to most represent the theme was Good Mow Joe with runners-up trees by Monte Vista Hotel and Black Mountain Fire Department. The fire department's tree raised the most money at the hotel. 

Herschel's won for most representative of the theme in the community with runners up Tyson's Furniture and Kilwin's. Kilwin's raised the most money in the community category. 

"To be our first year participating, it's super exciting," said Andrea Garmon, one of the owners of Herschel's. "It's a wonderful cause."

The Black Mountain Fire Department's tree included a memorial to Garrett Presnell, a firefighter who passed away in August due to COVID-19.

The winners of each category will receive a $100 gift card to Milton's at Monte Vista Hotel. 

Scott Roy, a financial advisor for Edward Jones in Black Mountain, was joined by his colleagues in serving as this year's contest judge. Roy's office was chosen for judging because it has been a sponsor for many years, according to Farleigh. 

"It was absolutely fun," Roy said. "It's an incredible project, and we were very grateful to be able to be the judges this year." 

Roy and his colleagues met with business owners and interacted with the community during the judging process, allowing for a chance to hear from the decorators themselves. He said it took a few days to see all the trees with the majority of his observations taking place during Holly Jolly. 

Garmon hand-made more than 40 ornaments for Herschel's winning tree, joking that she was covered in glue and glitter for four days. She said she enjoyed the friendly competition between the other downtown businesses, especially in support of such a good cause. 

Participating in its first Deck the Trees, Herschel's tree included more than 40 hand made ornaments.

"Very well done," Roy said of Herschel's tree. "The theme with the top winners was spot on 'A Black Mountain Christmas.'" 

Many of the trees showed a uniquely human aspect, according to Roy. The veteran's tree and the preschool included photos on the trees, and though these contestants didn't make the top, Roy said they were an added bonus. 

"The trees this year were spectacular," Farleigh added. "People responded to the artistry of the trees."