Festival of Christmas Trees. Salt Lake City, Utah
Mabel Robertson was a Christmas wish come true for the children in her neighborhood. All year long, she knitted and stitched and
organized and prepared for the holiday season. Then she would invite the children into her home to pick a homemade stocking and
gift off her tree.
Robertson passed away years ago. Even so, Julia Dunfield Findlay of Sandy and her six children, who visited Robertson's home in
the '70s and '80s still hold those memories dear. To remember Robertson's unselfishness, the family chose to honor her
contributions with a donation to the Festival of Trees. The tree, organized by daughter Didi Weaver of Herriman, is covered with
stockings and gifts much like Robertson's efforts, and is called, "Here Comes Santa Claus."
"It took [Mabel] all year to get it ready," recalled Weaver, a time period equal to how long the family has been working on their festival
tree in her memory.
The Festival of Trees, which runs through Saturday at the South Towne Expo Center in Sandy, began as a fundraiser 37 years ago by
the Women's Endowment Committee of the Primary Children's Medical Center. That first year, although just 60 trees were decorated,
more than $47,000 was raised. Since then, a total of over $18 million has been raised, every cent of which is donated to the hospital.
"Here Comes Santa Claus" is the sixth tree the family has donated to the festival.
The tradition began in 2002, with a tree honoring the life of the family patriarch, Jim Dunfield, who died at age 47 in 1990. A later tree
honored son Jon Dunfield, who is a cancer survivor. While the majority of the work has been done by the family's four daughters and
two daughters-in-law, their husbands, brothers and children help out, too.
"We try to get everyone involved in some sort of way," Weaver said. Twenty-four members of the family have been involved in the tree
Daughter Kelly Pettersson is the family's oldest child and therefore has the most memories of visits to Mabel Robertson's house.
Pettersson is the one who proposed the idea to do this year's tree in her honor. Another motivation was the fact that Pettersson
learned how to knit this year, helping her appreciate all the more the handmade stockings Robertson prepared for neighborhood
"She must have knitted all year," she said. "By the end of the season, all the stockings were gone. I can't remember not going. [If you]
knew Mabel, you went to her house."
Memories are about all Dunfield family members have of the stockings Mabel Robertson knitted. A year after their father passed
away, the Dunfield's home, along with the stockings the family had lovingly kept, burned to the ground.
"I've wanted to do it for a while," said Pettersson of the decision for this year's theme. This tree "is the modern-day Mabel. It was a
fond Christmas to go to her house."
Enjoy the Festival
* The Festival of Trees runs from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. through Saturday at the South Towne Expo Center, at 9575 South State St. in
Sandy. Tickets at the door cost $4 for adults and $2.50 for senior citizens and children ages 2 to 11; admission is free for children
under 2. Discount tickets are available at all Zions Bank branches. Adult tickets are $3.50 and children's tickets are $2. For more
information, go to www.festivaloftreesutah.com.
|Nov. 28 - Dec. 1, South Towne Ex[position Center, 9575 S State Street, Sandy, Salt Lake County, Utah