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Special delivery for Providence trees

Staging a delivery effort that would impress even ol' Saint Nick, volunteers delivered more than 70 heavily decorated Christmas trees to homes and businesses around Southern Oregon Monday.

The final piece of a weeklong event, the delivery was only a small part of the effort it took to create, then later to pack up the festively decorated trees for those who had won them at the annual Providence Festival of Trees auction last week.

Only hours after the final day of the festival, lights were raised at the Providence Festival of Trees on Sunday afternoon and dozens of volunteers descended on the Medford armory, packing up trees far faster than they'd been set up days earlier, but with equal amounts of determined effort.

The festival is the primary fundraiser for the Providence Foundation, raising more than $6 million since it began 20 years ago. Behind the scenes, it's yielded some interesting stories, long-term friendships and tricks of the trade that would impress even the savviest of elves.

On Sunday, as light strands blinked off one by one, rolls of bubble wrap appeared at the foot of each tree scene. All bound for various destinations, the trees had to be securely wrapped to prevent damage or disaster.

A tree adorned entirely in shoes was one of a few still visible only hours after the festival's final hour.

An evergreen with a large Dr. Seuss bursting from behind its branches lay half-wrapped. Just across the way, however, the Seussical villain himself lay on one side, sneering up at this year's full-size tree "Best of Show," "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

Becky Fliegel, one of three employees at Dr. Bruce Logan's Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Center who helped create the tree, patiently wrapped the upside-down tree, staged to appear to be falling into the Grinch's toy bag.

"Each section where it's connected, we drilled bolts through so it would hold up," Fliegel said. "They won't be able to take it apart unless they really need to."

While the festival's trees were covered in everything from polar bears to Legos, not a stray bow or ornament could be found on the sprawling armory floor.

Working to the background noise of crickets and a crackling fire, tree designer Martha Brooks patiently wrapped dozens of fishing lures attached to her tree, "Gone Fishing." Brooks, who creates a tree to match a painting created by Rogue Valley Artist Dona Gelsinger each year, said some trees are more difficult than others to prep for delivery.

"We have to wire them so if anyone wants to take them apart, it's quite a process.

"We've packed some interesting things over the years," Brooks said. "This one's tough because we had fishing lures on it and we didn't nip the barbs off of it so they could be used later. It's a little tricky."

Nearby, a half-dozen folks worked on a cowboy-themed tree. After 10 years of building trees, designer Juanita Ford and her husband Gordon have a few tricks up their sleeves.

"It's kind of a standard thing," said Juanita. "The top always has to come out because the trucks are too short and it hits the top of them. We always build them so they'll be packed in two halves."

Added Gordon, "We had a tree, one year, show up for delivery lying on its side. You have to pack them just right.

While all the trees required different levels of care for transport, the focus was all similar. The trees were all bound for homes, offices and even nonprofits around the Rogue Valley. Fliegel was delighted to learn her tree would go to a local family.

Patty and Norm Fincher of Medford won the tree at an auction this year.

The Finchers, who have four children, surprised their family on Monday.

"We've gone before but never been fortunate enough to get a tree," Norm said.

"This one just really leapt off the page for us."

Perhaps the only thing more appealing than a Grinch and an upside-down tree in his living room, he said, was being left out of the logistics of delivery.

"I'm thankful I don't have to figure out how to get it down here. I don't even know if it'll fit in the attic yet."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com.

Becky Fliegel carefully packs up “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” which won Best of Show in the annual Providence Festival of Trees Sunday at the Medford Armory. Mail Tribune / Julia Moore - Julia Moore