Saco’s Festival of Trees, the biggest annual fundraiser for Dyer Library/Saco Museum running through Dec. 29, is a small-town effort, but with this year’s theme of Christmas Around the World, it’s also a global celebration.

“This starts off the holiday season,” said Carol Taranko at the Preview Gala on Nov. 23. Supporters of Saco’s library and regional history museum turned out in merry finery the weekend before Thanksgiving to nosh on hors d’oeuvres from around the world and admire more than 30 trees decorated by local volunteers, many of them sponsored by local businesses.

Most of the trees have a global theme, from Parisian Joyeux Noel to Latin American Nochebeuna, with others serving as tributes to passions as varied as the Nutcracker, Father Christmas, superheroes, royal weddings and the Boston Bruins.

“The trees are just gorgeous – the imagination and the variety,” said Rita Shiman of Saco, who attends every year.

Volunteers, including Girl Scout Troops 277 and 2196, assembled a creative gingerbread village, featuring West Quoddy Light and a ski resort. “They’re gingerbread houses but they’re a mixed art form,” said volunteer Kate Scammon. “I’ve become really good at building things with pretzels.”

Over the past 15 years, the nonprofit Dyer Library/Saco Museum has raised about $20,000 through sponsorships, raffles and silent auctions associated with the Festival of Trees (this year’s silent auction closes Thursday). Funds support library and museum programs, with the museum caring for objects that relate to the Saco River Valley but also more generally to Maine and New England history.

Kate O’Toole, the Dyer Library office manager, and her husband, George Austin, a museum trustee, both grew up in Saco.

“Libraries are so important as a place where you can go and don’t need to buy anything and – bonus – you’re surrounded by books and resources,” she said.

“And the museum is part of what makes it a unique institution,” he said, talking about how several local school districts collaborate with Saco Museum to teach about regional history.

“Dyer Library is the heart of this community,” said trustee Linsey Pilon. “Everybody uses it.”

“It’s community central,” added Bob Clark of Saco.

The Festival of Trees exhibit at Saco Museum is free to the public through Dec. 29, open noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, noon to 8 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Santa is making his annual visit 12:30-3 p.m. Sunday. The museum is at 371 Main St., Saco.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at [email protected].

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