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Carroll County Times

Festival of Wreaths a perennial favorite

Laura Shenk, right, turns in a wreath for the Animal Advocates of Carroll County to Glenn Goff at the Carroll Arts Center in Westminster Monday.

Wreaths have long been appropriated as symbols with a variety of meanings. Ancient people once wove wreaths in the darkest days of December to symbolize the perennial cycle and to remind themselves that spring would come again.

Evergreen wreaths were sometimes constructed to serve as a temporary home for spirits. Laurel wreaths were given as a sign of victory. Funeral wreaths represent eternal life, as do Christmas wreaths. This holiday season, a wreath on a door can often be considered as a sign from the inhabitants that the spirit of Christmas dwells within.

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It is no surprise that the Carroll County Arts Council has taken on such an emblematic subject for its biggest fundraiser of the year. More than 150 themed wreaths have been created by professional and amateur artists for the 16th annual Festival of Wreaths, which starts Saturday at the Carroll Arts Center in Westminster.

The center depends on the fundraiser for its daily operating expenses, said Director Sandy Oxx.

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"We pride ourselves that this event not only helps us, but brings lots of visitors downtown to enjoy the local shops and restaurants," she said.

When clubs, schools, businesses and non-profits enter a wreath in a festival, it also gives them a terrific opportunity to get the word out about what they do for the community, said Oxx. Businesses that create wreaths may also get new customers asking for creations similar to one they saw at the festival, she said.

Carolyn Seabolt, of Cat Tracks Studio, entered a wreath with her signature cat-theme but with a modern twist. The work features four ceramic kitties under a tall silver pine on a grapevine wreath with red and green accents.

Seabolt said she is known for her feline-centric work, and she has been supporting the festival since it began. The only year she strayed from the cat theme in her wreath, she said, she received feedback that convinced her bring the kitties back each year for the festival.

The cats bring joy to people, said Seabolt.

"There is so much sadness in the world. It's fun to see people smile when they look at a creation," she said.

Marilyn Hanchett said she tries to do something every year that is hugely different from the wreath she did the previous year. This year her theme is traditional French country but with some American quirkiness thrown in, she said. Previous entries have included an all black-and-white wreath one year and an exceedingly old-fashioned wreath another year.

Like many of the wreaths at the festival, hers is meant to be displayed year-round and not just for the holidays.

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"What always amazes me every year is the variety," said Hanchett about the annual festival. "There is truly something there for everyone."

Mallory Van Fossen works as an art therapist and said she participates in the festival each year because it is a way to give back to the Arts Council that supported her earlier in her life and career.

"I wanted to help them in any way I could," said Van Fossen. "The organization is very, very valuable to the community."

Her entry this year is made from zippers. Van Fossen said her aunt gave her a bag with about 100 zippers of varying colors.

"I upcycled them and turned them into rosettes," she said.

The zipper rosettes are attached to an armature that forms a wreath about 14 inches in diameter.

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In previous years, the festival has brought in as much as $30,000 for the Arts Council and is expected to raise more than $20,000 this year, said Oxx.

"We know that these numbers are due to the amazing generosity of both the decorators and the bidders and we are very grateful," she said.

The Festival of Wreaths is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily at the Arts Center through Dec. 8.

Several free events are scheduled to coincide with the festival. To celebrate the opening, the classic movie "Miracle on 34th Street" will be screened at 3 p.m. Saturday. Organizers have timed the film to end in time for scheduled Main Street events outside the center.

On Sunday, "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" (1989) will be screened at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and "Elf" (2003) will be screened at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.

A membership promotion will be held Monday. Arts Council members will receive a 10 percent discount in Gallery of Gifts in the Tevis Gallery, where more than 35 artists have items on display. New members joining the same day will also get free tickets to "A Christmas Carol," presented by Maryland Ensemble Theater Dec. 13 and 14.

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Visitors can trade trimmings for the tree on Tuesday. Those who bring an unwrapped, handmade ornament can take home a new one.

Complimentary wine will be served from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday.

"Sounds of the Season," a recital by students at Coffey Music, will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 5.

Dec. 6 is Ugly Sweater Night. From 6 to 9 p.m. visitors will be asked to wear their ugliest holiday sweater or tackiest necktie for a friendly competition. Those brave enough to wear the most unappealing getup could take home the title for ugliest attire.

Holiday cartoons will play on the big screen while Santa poses for photos with little ones Dec. 7 for Kids Day. Other activities will include a wreath scavenger hunt and temporary wreath tattoos.

The festival will wrap up Dec. 8 with Purple Pride Day. As bidding winds down, visitors can watch the Ravens game on the big screen, and those wearing purple will get a Ravens souvenir.


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