Creativity on display at Festival of Wreaths

Money raised through auction will benefit Carroll's arts council

December 01, 2003|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Magnificent white and gold magnolia petals adorn one wreath. Snowmen smile from another. A penguin, looking like he's been to the orthodontist, rides a tiny sled in a third.

At the Carroll County Arts Council's sixth annual Festival of Wreaths, which opens tomorrow, the familiar images of Christmas compete for attention with the whimsical and the outlandish.

"There really is something here for everybody," said Sandy Oxx, arts council director. "There is the gorgeous, the quirky and wreaths you can hang all year round."

Part auction and fund-raiser, part creative competition, this year's edition of the festival has drawn more than 175 entries. Wreath-makers will vie for prizes, while hundreds of bidders will compete to take home the holiday decorations.

In years past, some of the donated wreaths have drawn bids of several hundred dollars, money which goes to support the arts council. The event has raised as much as $12,000 for the organization in past years, and this year's record number of entries could generate even more money, Oxx said.

Businesses use the wreaths to advertise. Many offer incentives to bidders: gift certificates, merchandise, even recipes and theater tickets.

"A lot of displays have things people can take off and use," Oxx said. "The ones with gift certificates are often the hardest to get."

Successful bidders in the silent auction could win a DVD of The Lion King or an Elvis Presley album. The rules don't limit entries to wreaths - they just have to have a green theme. One entry this year is a classic Radio Flyer sled adorned with powdered cocoa, mugs and sweets.

But most start with the idea of a traditional wreath and add a personal twist.

A group of Westminster orthodontists created "Brace Yourself," with a sledding penguin whose shiny braces protrude from his beak. A Westminster salon braided hair throughout its wreath and made a bow of a red hairpiece. Tastefully Simple Treats filled its design with recipes and packets of ingredients.

Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett included a flag that has flown over the U.S. Capitol with his wreath of red berries and patriotic ribbons. McDaniel College offered four free writing tutorial sessions to the winner bidder for its circle of rolled manuscripts.

The Littlest Learners, a day care center at Carroll Community College, offered a wreathful of tiny tin toys. Sarah Wack, 9, gave a plug to a local production of The Nutcracker that she will dance in next month. Along with her wreath, Sarah offered two tickets to the performance.

"Every year, I feel sure all the ideas have been taken, but as the wreaths come in, I see more and different ones," said Oxx, who dubbed her entry "Elvis' Blue Christmas." The blue-hued circle comes with an album and four tickets to the Arts Council's screening of Viva Las Vegas next month in honor of the rocker's birthday.

Girl Scout Troop 1181 titled its wreath "S'mores" and filled it with marshmallow snowmen. The Good Thyme Gals Garden Club hid a secret garden behind a picket fence on its wreath. The Carroll County Farm Museum decorated its wreath with Victorian candy cones, and Christmas in April, which helps refurbish homes for the needy, made a miniature porcelain house its centerpiece.

Individuals often encircle a message in their creations. Laurel Brown of Westminster took her theme from the Book of Isaiah, calling her wreath of antique homes "Peaceful Dwelling Places." Neil and Debbie Ridgely of Finksburg decorated with black bears and mute swans and dedicated their wreath to "Maryland's newest endangered species."

Sherry Leonard chose a peace theme and attached a battery-powered, fiber-optic dove to her wreath. Surrounding the dove are tiny international flags and a Christmas ball painted to resemble the globe.

The festival, which is free and open to the public, runs tomorrow through Saturday at the Carroll Arts Center, 91 W. Main St., Westminster. Information: 410-848-7272.

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