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McKeesport Festival of Trees raised holiday spirits of needy

| Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, 4:26 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Youngsters David McPherson of Liberty, Kasey Beresford of North Versailles Township, Raeana Bruce of Liberty, Anna Jamison of Elizabeth and Brian Beresford of North Versailles Township join entertainer Mikey Dee on stage to sing 'Jingle Bells' and 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.'
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Fifth-grader Ava Dzurenda and her sister Mia, a kindergarten student, admire Mon Yough Catholic School's entry in the 28th annual Festival of Trees.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
McKeesport Area senior Howard Stuvaints and culinary instructor Anthony Gallaher prepare hot dogs and other snacks in the Jacob Woll Pavilion kitchen.

McKeesport's 28th annual Festival of Trees was more than just the perfect way for the city and the region to get into the holiday spirit. It gave all who attended an opportunity to help lift the spirts of those in need.

The five-day festival, which ended Monday, featured a live nativity scene, hayrides, a visit from Santa and 82 holiday trees decorated according to the themes of their sponsors.

Organizers hosted a food drive for the McKeesport-based Intersection, a shelter and soup kitchen that provides hot meals and access to medical care for the homeless and underserved. At least 18 large containers of canned goods were collected at Jacob Woll Pavilion in Renziehausen Park.

More than 1,000 people crossed the pavilion's threshold, festival co-chairs Pat Harris and Cheryl Myers Cotter said.

“People really came out to support the festival, even in the bad weather,” Harris said. “We want to thank everyone who visited because they make this festival a success.”

McKeesport native Shawn McPherson attended on the final day with his cousin David McPherson, 6.

David pointed to the McKeesport Fire Department's tree as his favorite.

“I like it,” he said, looking at the fire trucks.

Shawn McPherson said the festival provided a great, family friendly atmosphere.

“All the trees have a story, and we hear the stories as they come in,” Cotter said. “It's important to everybody.”

Culinary students from McKeesport Area High School's Career and Technology Center worked the concession stand to raise money for field trips to restaurants.

Culinary instructor Anthony Gallaher said this is the second year his group cooked for the festival community.

“It's real-world experience,” Gallaher said. “You get that short-order setup. I think they did well.”

Semper Fidelis Club of McKeesport nearly sold out of its baked goods. Only a few cupcakes were left.

Attendees voted for their favorite trees as part of an informal exit poll.

“They all felt they were participating this year and everybody has loved it,” Cotter said.

Top vote-getters were McKeesport Art Group's “The Games People Play,” Joyful Bloomers Garden Club's “Birds, Blooms, and Butterflies” and AIU McKeesport Family Center's “Our Family Tree.”

Six judges made their choices last Thursday, awarding ribbons to (in order of finish for each category):

• Handmade adult — Reformed Hungarian Church Embroidery Group, Semper Fidelis Club, McKeesport College Club.

• Handmade youth — South Allegheny French and Spanish V, South Allegheny Middle School, South Allegheny GATE students.

• Handmade child — Mon Yough Catholic School, Highland Grove Task Force, Brownie Troop 58112.

• Creative adult — Joyful Bloomers Garden Club, St. Margaret School of Nursing, Mon Yough Community Services Vocational Department.

• Creative youth — Francis McClure Intermediate School, South Allegheny Middle School Crafting Club, Founders Hall Middle School Choir.

• Creative children — St. Agnes School, St. Patrick CCD, Twin Rivers Primary and Intermediate School.

• Community Service adult — McKeesport Ambulance Rescue Service, McKeesport Police Department, LGAR Health and Rehabilitation Center.

• Community Service youth — McKeesport Area School District Pre-K Counts, South Allegheny Character Education Book Club, McKeesport Area High School Student Council.

• Community Service children — McKeesport Little Tigers, Cub Scout Pack 53, Carnegie Library of McKeesport.

• Elegant adult — Voices of Vision, Trail Commission, McKeesport Lions Club.

• Elegant youth — South Allegheny GATE, Founders Hall Drama Club, McKeesport Area High School Honor Society.

• Elegant child — Fawcett Plan Task Force, McKeesport First Steps Parenting Program, Alliance Childcare and Stay Safe.

• Inspirational adult — McKeesport Area Ministerium, Beulah Park Church, Relay for Life of McKeesport.

• Inspirational youth — Propel McKeesport, Girl Scout Troop 50161, Mon Valley School AIU 3.

• Inspirational child — Praise Christian Academy, Auberle Shelter, Corpus Christi Parish CCD Program.

• Original adult — AIU McKeesport Family Center, McKeesport Art Group, The Daily News.

• Original youth — South Allegheny Middle School Art Club, SATV Student Media Group, South Allegheny SADD.

• Original child — Girl Scout Troop 60055, Francis McClure Primary School, Girl Scout Troop 60007.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1965, or