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Behind the scenes, before the magic

Hours of volunteer labor go into creating the beautiful trees and displays at Festival of Trees

Posted: November 11, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: November 11, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Interior designer Ruben Haynes uses a table runner as he begins to decorate a Christmas tree in preparation for the Festival of Trees. Haynes designed and decorated more than 20 of the 39 full-size trees on display.

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It is mid-morning on Thursday, less than 24 hours remain before the 10th annual Festival of Trees opens to the public at Westfield Valencia Town Center.

The cavernous empty space that will soon ring with holiday music and fill with volunteers and visitors is strewn with boxes of ornaments, lights and decorations.

On a tour of the finished trees, Ronda Chobanian, Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clarita Valley Foundation director, pointed out several of the most unique trees on display this year, which included a Hanukkah tree, the upside-town “Elfin Around” Tree and the Steampunk Tree.

Chobanian said the Fallen Heroes to Angels tree designed by the Gold Star Families will feature photos of soldiers from the SCV who has died in the line of duty.

Ruben Haynes of Ruben Haynes Designs has designed and decorated trees every year for the festival, which is celebrating its 10th annual event this year.

“I love decorating and this is a way I can give back,” Haynes said.

Haynes said his inspiration for his tree designs can come from nearly anything.

“A simple ornament can set me off,” he said. “I get a vision, and I can design an entire tree around a single ornament.”

Among his favorite trees he has created are trees that feature an “old world” design and he likes doing “Grinch” trees, too.

“There’s so many of them,” he said. “Each year is very different.”

Haynes estimates that he will design 13 to 14 of this  year’s trees and co-design (with Chobanian) six or seven other trees.

In the 10 years, he has worked to craft trees for the Festival his designs have exceeded 100 trees.

Tonde Razooly, designer of the “Nightmare before Christmas” tree and three other trees at the festival, said the tree took “most of October” to construct.

Each of the “bones” that make up the tree was cast using spray foam insulation, then trimmed.

Then each bone received seven layers of stain, paint and shellac.

Razooly and her mother, Denise Morgana, designed several unique, unorthodox  and cutting-edge trees for the festival.

“We bring something different to the festival,” Razooly said. “It may not be the most beautiful or the most grand, but something  that’s different.”

Razooly, a Valencia resident, said her ideas come from thinking about Christmas in a different way.

“Not everyone has room for those huge, luscious gold and white trees,” she said. I went back to my roots of just  having fun with Christmas.”

Razooly said Festival of Trees gives her an opportunity to share her artistic vision.

“It’s probably the closest thing I could get to an art gallery show,” she said. “It’s also a way to give back. I always want to be able to give back to the community.”

Todd and Karen Stevens are serving their fourth year as chairs of the Festival of Trees.

“I love this event,” said Karen Stevens. “It brings the community together for something positive. It’s also a beautiful event. It’s also a family, kids oriented event.”

Nancy Olmos, owner of Clarice’s Cake & Candy, is the gingerbread house chairwoman for the Festival. This year’s event will feature 100 of the hand-crafted creations.

On Thursday, Olmos started arranging the houses on  long tables. The candy-studded creations filled the air with the sweet smell of gingerbread.

“Nancy is our gingerbread angel with wings,” Chobanian said. “She has been storing these gingerbread houses at her home for nearly three weeks.”

In addition to nearly 50 tabletop trees and vignettes the festival will have dozens of wreaths for sale.

Jen Scott designed and built all of the more than 35 wreaths on display.

“She is a new volunteer this year and has done an amazing job,” said Chobanian.

Festival of Trees is open now through Nov. 21. A full schedule of entertainment, hours and special events can be found online at


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