This year the exceedingly family-friendly celebrations occur right after Thanksgiving on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 23-24 (see below for more details). Entry to both events is free.
The Festival of Trees – sponsored by Gualala Arts Center and now in its ninth year – runs both days. The entire Arts Center will be festooned with so much old-fashioned décor that you’ll swear you’ve been transported into a mid-19th century seaside logging town. People get into the spirit of the thing with costumes, photos of 19th century Gualala deck the walls, and decorations are everywhere. Locals with pioneering skills – a weaver, a quilter, a wreath-maker, and a virtuoso of the spinning wheel – will be hard at work.
And, of course, there are the festive trees in the event’s title. Every year local organizations are invited to create and decorate a tree that’s anywhere from one to four feet in size (their small size makes them easy for travelers to transport).
The trees are lined up on “Fantasy Tree Lane” where they are admired by all and awarded prizes by a panel of judges. They are sold during the weekend, with proceeds benefiting the Arts Center.
You’ll also be able to browse wonderful works by local artists and craftspeople (and hopefully find some terrific gifts). In beautifully decorated booths you’ll find jewelry, fiber crafts, pottery, hand-made birdhouses, and much more.
In addition, a clay studio will be open for demonstrations, Mrs. Claus’s Bake Shoppe & Confectionary will entice with everything from cookies to fruitcake, and fresh holiday wreaths will be on sale.
There’s also a big contingent of local gustatory producers on hand at the “country store” – Flying Noir handmade and hand-decorated chocolate, wines from Annapolis Winery, jams and jellies from Lisa’s Luscious Kitchen, Bonanno Family Olives, and much more.
And if you’re hungry, sit down with some chili or chowder and wash it down with hot chocolate or hot-spiced apple cider.
For kids, the “Magical Gingerbread House” – filled with activities and crafts – will be the hottest spot in town. Elves will help kids with fun projects, including making gingerbread houses. Santa will be visiting, accompanied by Spanish-speaking elves (so that all kids can let Santa know what they want this year).
The Festival of Trees wraps up late Saturday afternoon, and a couple of hours later comes the only-in-Gualala, truckin’-down-the-highway event that everybody’s been waiting for …
The Lighted Truck Parade involves a convoy of well-lit and highly-decorated big lumber and other trucks – along with antique trucks, smaller trucks, fire trucks, boats on trailers, and other big vehicles – cruising on Highway 1 through the center of town with sirens, horns, and whistles blowing.
The vehicle decorations are festive and seasonal, and the convoy will be led by Santa Claus himself. When the parade ends, Gualala’s tree lighting ceremony takes place at the Community Center, marking the official start of the region’s holiday season. Kids of all ages can get their photo taken with Mr. Claus (who loves giving away candy canes), while gallons of hot chocolate is served up by the local Soroptimist Club.
What you need to know:
The Festival of Trees
- Where: Gualala Arts Center, 46501 Gualala Road, Gualala.
- When: Friday, 11/23, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday, 11/24, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
- Info: 707-884-1138; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.gualalaarts.org.
Lighted Truck Parade & Santa Claus Arrival
- Where: Highway 1, Gualala.
- When: Saturday, 11/24, 6 p.m. until ?
- Info: 707-884-1080; www.redwoodcoastchamber.com.