by Megan Rykaczewski
One hundred live spruces will illuminate the Tuscaloosa River Walk this holiday season as part of the Tinsel Trail, a fundraiser for Tuscaloosa’s One Place.
Tuscaloosa’s One Place, a nonprofit family resource center that serves Tuscaloosa County, is partnering with Holidays on the River to host the installation. The trail is across the street from the Holidays on the River ice skating rink and new ice slide. It is free to walk and will be open Nov. 23-Jan 5. Trees will be lit from 4 p.m.-midnight daily.
The trail will officially open with a ribbon cutting Monday at 4:30 p.m. The ribbon cutting will be open to the public and will feature complimentary hot chocolate provided by Dunkin’ Donuts and music by the Shelton State Jazz Ensemble.
“This is a fun family event,” said Amanda Waller, director of development at Tuscaloosa’s One Place and the event’s organizer. “It’s also free to get in to, so the whole family can come.”
Trees are sponsored and decorated by local businesses. Hayley Sansing, a representative of Trustmark Bank, said her organization bought a tree as a way to celebrate the holidays and be a part of a fun Tuscaloosa event.
“We bought a tree because we think it will be a great way to get our name out in the Tuscaloosa community,” Sansing said. “We are thankful for the opportunity to support the mission of Tuscaloosa’s One Place and excited to be a part of this great holiday tradition.”
Waller said the Tinsel Trail encourages businesses to be as creative as possible with the decorations on their trees. Sponsors are asked to tie their tree’s theme in with their business or organization’s mission.
“I know one real estate agency is going to decorate with house ornaments,” Waller said. “A dentist’s office could do toothbrushes. Anything fun works.”
Tinsel Trail is modeled after a successful fundraiser in Huntsville by the same name. Teresa Costanzo, executive director of Tuscaloosa’s One Place, said she wanted to bring Tinsel Trail to Tuscaloosa to create a lasting holiday tradition.
“We believe this [is] going to be a wonderful opportunity for children and families to enjoy the holiday season as well as provide the community a beautiful event and place,” Costanzo said.
Waller said the Huntsville Tinsel Trail has been wildly successful and that its organizers have been supportive in recreating a similar event in Tuscaloosa.
“We took the idea, and they’ve been our big brother and helped us through the process and to work out any kinks,” Waller said.
Organizers expect many people will visit the trail. The ice rink across the street attracted more than 10,000 people last year, and with the addition of the ice slide, that number is expected to grow. Waller said they expect at least that many people to come through the Tinsel Trail.
One of Waller’s goals for the event was to see University of Alabama student organizations get involved. Several organizations have sponsored trees, and one fraternity, Delta Sigma Phi, has partnered with Tuscaloosa’s One Place to make Tinsel Trail a yearly service project.
“The Delta Sigs have been out helping us diligently all day,” Waller said. “They have been doing physical labor. They have been wonderful.”
Delta Sigma Phi fraternity members aided Tuscaloosa’s One Place employees all week in setting up the event. Members worked Monday and Tuesday to set up the fence surrounding the trail and unload and install the Christmas trees.
“It’s an exciting opportunity for us all to come out here and help out,” said Matthew Andrews, a Delta Sigma Phi member and junior majoring in elementary education.
Logan Pate, a senior majoring in finance, said he has enjoyed working on the trail.
“I always like to see, at Christmas time, all the festivities, the trees and the decorations,” Pate said. “I think students will enjoy the event. I’m definitely going to enjoy seeing the trail lit up, and I’m definitely going to come.”
This article was published Nov. 25, 2013 in The Crimson White, the student newspaper of The University of Alabama.