Stepping Out

Festive spectacle at the Cradle of Aviation Museum

Welcome the holiday season at the Long Island Festival of Trees

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Now that our feasting is accomplished, this festive time of year truly gets underway. Of course, that means the Festival of Trees arrives at Museum Row in Garden City this weekend to kick off the holiday season.

It’s a beloved annual tradition for artisans, local entertainers, volunteers and visitors to gather at Cradle of Aviation Museum to usher in the season. Once again everyone is ready to share some holiday cheer in support of Cerebral Palsy Association of Nassau, the beneficiary of the event, along with the museum.

Trees populate the museum space all weekend long. The display of the 40 six and one-half-foot trees and over 100 two-foot mini-trees attracts attention as soon as visitors arrive at the museum’s grand atrium.

Among the highlights, Precious Moments fans always look forward to the tree by Pat Pereira of Baldwin; this year, “Happiness is Belonging” is certain to bring smiles to all. Also Norma Vetell has involved her students from her All About Spanish school in Bellmore to create “Viva La Salsa!” Look for images of famous Latin American salsa musicians and instruments in a celebration of the holidays.

“Many of our staff have been affiliated with CP Nassau,” says Vetell. “We chose a salsa theme for our tree because the children enjoy listening to the music, and we use it as a Spanish language teaching tool. We participate every year and create a tree because it makes the kids more aware of children with disabilities. They really look forward to decorating it to help CP Nassau.”

The Baldwin Homemakers will bring an NYC vibe to the festival with “New York City Nights.” Other standouts include “Winter Shimmer,” a glitzy tree designed by Kristi Halpern of Oyster Bay. This snow-frosted creation will give off sparkle with metallic decorations and luxurious ribbons.

“I have been a tree designer and done a tree for the Festival of Trees since the late 90s. I feel it is a great opportunity to have some creative output that is greatly appreciated by the attendees,” says Halpern. “Over the years I have gotten to know many of the young people who attend CP Nassau’s center, and it has deepened my desire to contribute to the organization.”

The Metro Parrot Head Club always keeps fun in the sun at the forefront of their tree; this year’s “Coastal Christmas” offers up a breezy Margaritaville vibe; while the Theresa Russo Foundation, of Lido Beach, returns with their contribution “All You Need is Love,” using inspiration from the Beatles.

The glittery display always includes those mini-trees — in different themes, of course — and wreaths, and swags. It’s all accompanied by a gingerbread village of almost 100 original gingerbread creations, cooked up every year by culinary students from the Barry Tech Institute in Westbury. As always, all trees and gingerbread houses are for sale.

The festive trees are a shimmering backdrop for the many activities that will appeal to ages, including entertainment and a holiday marketplace. Also visitors can also take in some ice skating (indoors) once again.

“I am amazed that this is our 30th year of celebrating the Festival of Trees,” says CP Nassau Executive Director Bob McGuire, a Point Lookout resident. “When I think of all the wonderful people who have volunteered to make the event a success and all the people who have attended and made the event a part of their holiday tradition, it warms my heart. CP Nassau has benefitted from significant funds raised over the decades and has made many new friends and contacts who help us in other ways. We are truly pleased that so many people make the Festival of Trees their place to be on Thanksgiving weekend.”

The entertainment schedule throughout the weekend features performances by local singers and dancers, including Rockville Centre’s Leggz Ltd. Dance troupe, performing excerpts from their upcoming holiday production of “The Nutcracker.”

The Force also gets in on the action, in the form of Star Wars re-enactors from the 501st Legion/Empire City Garrison who appear on Saturday. Their “Blast a Trooper” event is always a highlight of the day.

“We have participated in the festival for the past seven years providing Star Wars characters for Star Wars Saturday,” says John Trowbridge, of Baldwin, the Charity Representative for the 501st Legion’s Empire City Garrison. “Our organization is decorating a Star Wars Dark Side-themed tree for the first time this year to directly raise money for CP Nassau. This is a spectacular even for for an awesome local charity group, and we are proud to be a part of it.”

Long Island Festival of Trees

When: Friday through Sunday, Nov. 29-Dec. 1, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. $15, $10 children.

Where: Cradle of Aviation Museum, Museum Row, Charles Lindbergh Blvd. Garden City. (516) 378-2000 ext. 648 or www.cradleofaviation.org or

www.cpnassau.org.