The city's biggest Christmas fundraiser is looking for volunteers.
The 19th annual Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation's Festival of Trees has been attracting thousands of people every year to the Civic Centre to see the magic of Christmas unfold in a dazzling display of lights on dozens of intricately-decorated trees, wreaths and seasonal gift items.
But it takes people to put all those decorations on, build the displays and make sure all those lights are working.
"We're always looking for volunteers, it is such a massive event that more people just make a heavy load lighter," said Spirit of the North treasurer Trevor Lutes. "There are over 300 volunteers every year who give their time and that's always appreciated, but it's always nice to have a few more.
"I've lived in many communities across B.C. and one thing that always surprises me and makes me in awe is the generous nature of Prince George and the community as a whole. That generosity is always impressive during the year and it's even more on display during that festival."
This year's festival runs from Nov. 24 to Dec. 2 and is open most days from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is $5 (adults), $3 (students/seniors) and $10 (family pass).
The Festival of Trees started in 1994, and continues to raise significant dollars to fund the purchase of medical equipment and enhance health care for the referral area of University Hospital of Northern B.C. Since 2000, the event has raised $3.7 million and that's covered the cost of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners, CT scanners and ultrasound equipment.
This year's festival theme is based around the Grinch. Volunteer co-ordinator Boyanne Young has been involved as an organizer since it began and she has fond memories of the first year, when all the trees were harvested live.
"It smelled beautiful, but the needles were dropping everywhere and it was quite a fire hazard," said Young. "The designers didn't care for real trees because it wasn't equal -- you can't get two real trees exactly the same."
Young said volunteers are needed to haul in boxes and set up displays, work as greeters, rovers, children's activity crafters, raffle ticket sellers, admission ticket takers and to staff the volunteer room during the nine-day festival.
The launch of the festival coincides with the city's light-up night, when outdoor lights at the Civic Centre are turned on for the season. Businesses and individuals design and decorate the festival trees, which are then sold in the live auction that takes place during the gala evening on Nov. 30. Bids on trees and other decorative items in the silent auction will be accepted for the duration of the festival.
"It's magical when you walk in there," said Young. "It's just so beautiful and bright and everybody's in the spirit."
Tickets for the gala evening on Friday, Nov. 30 are $100 each. Also of the festival calendar are Jingle Bell Dance on Saturday, Nov. 24; the family brunch, Nov. 25; the Red Hat Ladies Luncheon, Nov. 26; sponsor appreciation evening, Nov. 26; Chamber of Commerce lunch, Nov. 27; a fashion show, Nov. 28; seniors tea, Nov. 29 and 30; and family night, Nov. 29.
Volunteers are asked to email Young at pgfotvolunte...@gmail.com or call 250-562-7065.