Communities celebrated in Festival of Trees


Each decorated tree included in the Dubois County Museum’s Festival of Trees this year represents a community in the county, and many of them tell unique stories pertaining to that community.

“It’s been tremendous. They are beautiful,” said Clara Fromme, one of the festival’s organizers. “We are so happy that all the communities participated.”

Portersville tree

Some of those stories honor people who dedicated time, talents and money to a community. The Dubois tree honors the memory of James and Susanne Seger. The Ferdinand tree honors native daughter Alice Kemper, a popular artist in the county who created the first community murals that grace the walls of the county museum.

Others tout a community’s longevity. And others showcase the community’s growth, like Haysville, which was founded in 1816, and Schnellville, which was founded in 1865.

There are trees that stick to the Christmas theme, like the ones for Huntingburg, St. Henry/Johnsburg, and St. Anthony/St. Marks. Others play on the community’s name, like the Birdseye tree, which is full of bird decorations and the Ireland tree, which showcases leprechauns and shamrocks.

The tree representing Portersville includes adornments pertaining to farming and woodworking. Decorator Angie Rudolph used wooden items made by William Rudolph, her husband Dave’s father. William Rudolph was a farmer in Portersville, who eventually moved to Ireland during the Great Depression.

“Grandpa Rudolph was raised in Portersville, right on the river there, which made it easy to get supplies,” Angie said. “He told his parents he was going to quit farming. What he did was he stayed and finished the farming, and then he bought land in Ireland.”

Dave farms his grandfather’s land today. And he had several family heirlooms that Angie decided to incorporate into the tree, starting with two straw hats Dave’s aunt and uncle wore.

“Whether they were in their garden or when Uncle Pete farmed, they always wore their straw hats,” Angie said. “I used their two hats and some other straw hats I had.”

Pitchforks, a walking stick and canes made by William adorn the tree. “He bought the steel part for the pitchforks. But he whittled and he made the handles,” Angie said.

And the hall tree sitting next to the Christmas tree was made by William. “I was amazed that at,” Angie said.

Celestine tree

Angie sat under the tree a wooden box William made, as well as pieces of wood. Ears of corn sit inside the box. Also on the tree are hand-whittled Christmas trees from Germany. “Dave and I have been married for 42 years, and I had those when we first got married. I added those because they went with the woodworking theme.”

Lights, ornaments and what looks like freshly picked cotton fill out the decorations.

“The cotton has nothing to do with anything,” Angie said. “It just fit in with the theme.”

The family of Art and the late Ann Kempf decorated Celestine’s tree with stuffed animals. Once the festival is done, the stuffed animals will be given to the pediatric wing at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center, and thus given to children who are in the hospital.

“The decorations on the Christmas tree for Celestine was a tribute to our parents, Art and Ann Kempf,” daughter Paula Wehr wrote. “Ann passed away in August 2011 and Art just turned 90 years old in November.”

As part of Art’s birthday celebration on Nov. 10, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren gave a stuffed animal. Those toys are tucked in the tree’s branches and adorned with lights.

The Kempfs donated the funds for a Celestine mural that is on a wall with other communities’ murals at the museum.

“They have always believed in sharing their time, talents and treasures with others in this, our wonderful community,” the family said in a note that sits next to the tree. “We the children of Art and Ann made a special effort to explain and teach (the next generations) the importance of this ‘Giving Tree,’ and especially the importance of sharing our time, talent and treasures that out parents taught us by their examples. We are truly blessed.”

Jasper’s tree includes ornaments representing the German heritage, as well as handmade mittens and hearts that were decorated by local children, co-decorator Nancy Eckerle said. Lights that are shaped like grapes, representing Pfaffenweiler, are wrapped around the tree. And the flags that form the tree’s topper represent the different countries from which Jasper High School exchange students have come.

All the communities represented in the Festival of Trees are Birdseye, Celestine, Dubois, Duff, Ferdinand, Haysville, Holland, Huntingburg, Ireland, Jasper, Portersville, St. Anthony/St. Marks, St. Henry/Johnsburg, Schnellville and Zoar. Soon, another tree will be added to represent the communities in the northeast corner of the county, like Cuzco, Hillham and Nicholson Valley.

Thirty other decorated trees that are not part of the festival have been placed in different areas of the museum.

All the trees are meticulously and elegantly decorated. And all will be on display through Jan. 5.

The Dubois County Museum is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for high schoolers, $2 for children in elementary or middle school, and free for kids under age 4.

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