Christmas Tree Festival & Market
The Fort Myers Beach Woman’s Club, in existence for 67 years with 55 years at its current location, is going through a renaissance, having tripled its membership and implementing new community events. The Mound House, Estero Island’s oldest standing structure now owned by the Town of Fort Myers Beach and operated as a museum complex, is also debuting a fundraising opportunity. Rather than competing, they are combining forces, with the Woman’s Club presenting its inaugural “Christmas Tree Festival” at its 175 Sterling Avenue building from Friday, December 14, through Sunday, December 16; and the Mound House its first “Christmas Market” on Saturday, December 15, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Christmas Tree Fest
“We will have nearly 20 decorated Christmas trees from various Fort Myers Beach non-profits,” said Woman’s Club Events Chairperson Mari Torgerson. “The individual groups wholly design, develop, and decorate their own tree however they want, so each will be completely unique. Guests then bid on them in a Silent Auction, with those funds going back to each individual organization. This will be a fun and festive way to get islanders and their Holiday guests to experience our Club. The goal is that when we walk out of here Sunday evening, all the trees are gone!”
“The Woman’s Club in working hand-in-hand with the Beach Kids Foundation through the ‘Christmas Tree Festival,’” added President Beverley Milligan. “They collect and distribute toys to all island children so everyone celebrates a Merry Christmas, so we suggested you bring an unwrapped new toy on Friday and Sunday, and that is your admission on Saturday.”
“Christmas Tree Festival” hours on Friday are 5:30 to 8 p.m., featuring the Southwest Florida Drill Team, Cypress Lake High School Holiday entertainment, refreshments and a cash bar. Saturday is 4:30 to 8 p.m., with a $5 or unwrapped new toy admission, with a People’s Choice Award Chili Tasting Contest, and Christmas treats like cookies and peanut brittle for sale. Sunday is 4 to 7 p.m., with Santa Claus giving a gift-wrapped book to each child, acoustic music from David Rojas, Jr., a Carballo’s Catering food truck, desserts for sale from Truly Scrumptious and a cash bar, as well as the conclusion of the Christmas Tree Silent Auction.
As for the inspiration behind the “Christmas Tree Festival,” “I have to thank my sister Shelley,” Beverley said, laughing! “Her curling club had a similar fundraiser and she showed me a photograph of her tree, all decorated with chocolates, and I thought that would be a natural fit for the Woman’s Club, and I passed the idea along to Mari, who did an amazing job.” The Woman’s Club is seeking donated baked goods, particularly for Saturday, so if you can help, please contact them, along with other information requests, at FMB-WC.org or on Facebook at FMBWomansClub.
The Woman’s Club is combining efforts with the historic Mound House at 451 Connecticut Street that will host a “Christmas Market at The Mound House” on Saturday, December 15 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., featuring free admission all day and vendors selling a variety of items, including food, with parking at 216 Connecticut Street, the overflow lot and at the Beach Baptist Church. “This started out as a coincidence that became a plan,” Beverley related. “When we first began the ‘Christmas Tree Fest,’ we learned about the ‘Christmas Market,’ so we arranged the two events so their times contradict but complement each other.”
“This is a new fundraising event organized by the ‘Friends of the Mound House,’” said Alison Giesen, Director of Cultural Resources for the Town of Fort Myers Beach and Mound House Director. “All money raised will support the Mound House’s educational endeavors as well as continuing our outreach mission to get more residents and guests to visit our site. We hope for a very successful turnout, so the ‘Christmas Market’ becomes an annual event.”
Vendors will sell a wide selection of holiday gifts and products. “Ellen Vaughan, one of our Board members, has a daughter in Bali, and she is sending an assortment of handmade items you will not find anywhere else,” Alison related. “Another unique ‘Christmas Market’ gift opportunity comes from the Caloosa Carvers. The signature Mound House tree is the huge strangler fig that sustained significant Hurricane Irma damage. We removed those portions and the Caloosa Carvers produced magnificent hand-carved items that they will sell. The strangler fig survived and is thriving, while you can take home beautiful gifts like finished and unfinished carvings, bowls and trays.”
Aside from these items, the vast majority of vendors are from island businesses, reported Alison, “to keep our money right here on Fort Myers Beach, especially after the difficult summer many endured due to water quality. An example of this is Council member Anita Cereceda, who owns three beach businesses. She will be at the ‘Christmas Market,” and will donate all her sales to the Mound House – that is so Anita! In addition to the carvings, we will have crafts, artwork, honey, marmalade and jellies, olive oils and vinegars, chair massages, herbs, natural products and more, with food and beverages, a musical performance by the Chapel By The Sea Choir from 11:30 a.m. to Noon, and Santa all day, so there will truly be something for everyone.”
While the “Christmas Market” is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Mound House will offer free admission from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. “This is the first time we have free admission since the Mound House grand opening,” explained Alison. “We hope everyone will discover the history and ecology and archeology of the site, and come back with family and guests. We want island residents to think of the Mound House as part of their own backyard, to return over and again, with pride and a sense of ownership. This is their Mound House!”
Exclusive Shopping Spree
Alison reminds everyone that the “Christmas Market” is not their only Mound House shopping opportunity. “Our Museum Store is full of educational and fun items, especially for kids and people interested in science, engineering, history and physics. The store operates in conjunction with the Mound House, but we are happy to open it for you off-hours for an exclusive shopping spree, so please contact us!”
The Mound House is the community’s cultural and environmental learning center that offers roughly 50 programs each month. Admission is $10 for ages 13 & up, $8 for students with IDs, $5 ages 6 to 12, and 5 & under free, with Town residents receiving a 50% discount. It is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., though it is closes Christmas and New Year’s Day. From Wednesday, January 2 through April 27, hours expand to five days a week: Tuesdays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For information, call 239-765-0865 or see www.moundhouse.org.
“We are so proud of the Mound House,” concluded Alison, “and especially thank our volunteers, because we could not succeed without them. Kick off your holidays with us at the ‘Christmas Market.’” “We look forward to seeing everybody,” added Beverley. “The ‘Christmas Tree Fest’ will be spectacular, and I plan on buying a tree!”
By Gary Mooney