Explore: Victoria's Festival of Trees, dinosaurs in Courtenay

Find inspiration to decorate your Christmas tree or just lose yourself in an enchanted forest at the annual Victoria Festival of Trees, a fundraiser for the B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation, which runs Nov. 15 until Jan. 7 at the Bay Centre.

The annual event, now in its 27th year, sees the shopping centre transformed into a forest of hand-decorated Christmas trees created by sponsors, local businesses, organizations and individuals.

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Design themes range from the traditional to modern — and everything in between.

The style and the look are often unique and limited only by the creativity and imagination of the entrants.

Share in the spirit by voting for your favourite tree in the People’s Choice Award. You are encouraged to make a donation with each vote — with no limit on the number of votes cast.

All proceeds go toward supporting the most urgent health-care needs of children in B.C.

Every year, more than 15,000 votes are cast, raising more than $138,000 for the B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation — making the festival the largest Vancouver Island fundraising event for the charity.

People can vote for their favourite trees in person or online.

Trees are free to view and will be on display at the Bay Centre starting today. The shopping centre is open 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday (with some holiday exceptions), at 1150 Douglas St.

Details at bcchf.ca/events/event-calendar/festival-of-trees/victoria.

Thousands expected to view and vote for gingerbread house

Every year, more than two dozen amateur and professional bakers get together in the spirit of friendly competition to concoct whimsical gingerbread creations.

The results are on display in the Gingerbread Showcase, which begins Saturday, Nov. 17, and runs until Jan. 6 at the Parkside Hotel and Spa.

While viewing the entries is free, visitors are asked to consider a donation with every ballot for the People’s Choice Award.

Dough collected from those voting for their favourite gingerbread houses will help build homes for local families, through the event’s host, Habitat for Humanity Victoria. Over the past nine years, the group has raised more than $230,000 to acquire land and build homes for local families in need of a safe and affordable place to call their own.

An estimated 20,000 visitors are expected to show up to view and vote.

The gingerbread houses on display are all made with 100 per cent edible ingredients on a 61-centimetre square base, and are at least 45 centimetres high.

The public is invited to view the creations from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily at the Parkside Hotel and Spa, 810 Humboldt St.

• For more information, go to habitatvictoria.com.

Dino-mite: Elasmosaur’s birthday

Help celebrate the 80-million-and-30th birthday of the Courtenay and District Museum and Palaeontology Centre’s Elasmosaur on Saturday, at the Comox Valley museum.

It was 30 years ago when Mike Trask and his 12-year-old daughter, Heather, two amateur earth scientists, came upon large fossilized bones along the Puntledge River. They later learned that they had discovered the remains of the first Elasmosaur in British Columbia.

The discovery of the prehistoric marine reptile put the Courtenay and District Museum at the forefront of exploration of more than 400 million years of prehistory on Vancouver Island.

At the museum, visitors can take a fossil tour and travel 80 million years back in time or browse the galleries to delve into the stories that make history come alive.

At Saturday’s family-friendly event, people are encouraged to come dressed as their favourite dinosaur.

You can make a birthday craft, win a door prize, grab a free balloon, have your face painted, get your photo taken with the Elasmosaur mascot or try your hand at the dinosaur bone toss.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development has announced a competition for a provincial fossil to be added to other official provincial symbols of the province.

If enough people vote for it, the Elasmosaur will join the Spirit Bear, Steller’s Jay and Pacific Dogwood as B.C. symbols.

Admission is by donation. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (cake-cutting is at 11:30 a.m.) on Saturday, Nov. 17, at the museum, 207 4th St. in Courtenay.

• For more information, go to courtenaymuseum.ca.

Cathedral’s music-filled celebration for St. Cecilia

Christ Church Cathedral is inviting everybody to spend a music-filled day at a Musical Open House for St. Cecilia, Saturday, Nov. 17, at the cathedral.

This annual event commemorates St. Cecelia, the patron saint of musicians. The day includes more than eight hours of live performances — a different one every half-hour — by artists such as Charmaine Tai, Will Quinn, Victoria Children’s Choir, New Page Country Dance Orchestra, Cookeilidh and Baylie’s Sax Quartet. Visitors can also climb 71 winding steps to watch the Cathedral Bell Ringers perform live.

Admission is free. The event runs 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Christ Church Cathedral, 930 Burdett Ave. Street parking is available on Quadra Street, Burdett Avenue and Rockland Avenue, as well as at the south entrance to the cathedral off Burdett.

• For more information, go to christchurchcathedral.bc.ca/events.

Victoria’s Agricultural Exhibitions on show

Learn more about a little-known chapter of local history at Exhibition Dreams: Victoria’s Agricultural Exhibitions 1861 to 1941, an illustrated lecture, Nov. 15 at Ross Bay Villa. For more than 80 years, beginning in 1861, Victoria’s Agricultural Exhibitions showcased livestock, produce, horse racing and eventually, automobiles and modern industrial products.

The B.C. Agricultural Association Exhibition Building at the Willows Fairgrounds, built in 1891, was an architectural marvel that hosted the exhibition. The building succumbed to fire in 1907 and is now all but forgotten.

Author and heritage consultant Stuart Stark has done deep research into this little-known chapter of local history, with particular emphasis on our lost Crystal Palace. Stark will be bringing copies of his illustrated book, The B.C. Agricultural Association Exhibition Building at the Willows.

Tickets are $10. The lecture runs 7:30 to 9:30 tonight at Ross Bay Villa Historic House and Museum, 1490 Fairfield Rd.

• For more information, go to rossbayvilla.org.

 Opportunity knocks on woodpecker walk  

Discover all the tricks of the woodpecker trade at Wonderful Woodpeckers, a guided walk for children five and older, at Francis/King Regional Park on Saturday, Nov. 17. During the walk led by a Capital Regional District Regional Parks naturalist, children and adults will learn how to identify woodpeckers by sight, sound and habits.

Among birds, woodpeckers demonstrate amazing adaptations. For example, pileated woodpeckers are called the carpenters of the forest because they make new holes for nests every year.

The walk is free to join. It runs 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday. Meet at the Francis/ King Regional Park nature centre off Munn Road. The walk is suitable for families with children five and older.

Please wear sturdy footwear and dress for the weather. Try to arrive 10 minutes before the start of the program. Please leave pets at home.

• For information, go to crd.bc.ca/parks.

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