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Relocated Festival of the Trees deemed a success

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There was some concern that relocating Saturday’s ninth annual Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center Auxiliary Festival of the Trees from the state Armory at 225 Elizabeth St. to the Oddfellows Hall at 1111 Linden St. would hurt attendance because of the latter’s out-of-downtown location.

Not a chance.

The annual fundraiser for the hospital drew 1,400 people during the event’s daytime free admission period. The nighttime auction attracted 600 bidders at $15 a head to participate. Not a success? The organizers had to use a counter to keep track of the door traffic.

“With those numbers, absolutely not,” said event chairwoman Bonita A. “Bonnie” Wright. “I don’t have the money numbers right now, but we did very well. We did better than last year.”

The auction, led by auctioneer Bob Kosman, offered more than 60 items for bidding. A decorated, 4 1/2 foot-high Christmas tree, according to Mrs. Wright, sold for $500.

“He (Mr. Kosman) did a wonderful job,” she said.

Relocating to the Oddfellows was prompted by the increasingly popular event’s need for more space and parking accommodations, as well as handicapped access. The building delivered with 8,400 square feet of interior space, a large, open parking lot, a kitchen, a coat check room, a stage, a sound system and a room to count money.

The Armory, which hosted the festival since 2008, offered 7,280 square feet of usable space. But its shortcomings included handicapped-difficult steps and a small, fenced-in parking lot that led to a reliance on traffic-congesting, on-street parking. Last year’s festival featured 61 theme-decorated Christmas trees for auction and raised $40,000.

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