By Kathryn “Chazz” Hirschfeld
HAMILTON — The Hamilton Area Chamber of Commerce expected some participation in their inaugural “Walk of Trees” event. What they didn’t expect was to fill all 100 slots available for the project in just three days.
The response from businesses, non-profit organizations, churches, individuals and other entities amazed chamber office manager Caroline Hood, new to her role since August.
“For a first event, you don’t expect something so major,” Hood said. “Slots filled up quickly. We posted about the event on a Wednesday, had 90 participants by Thursday and filled all the slots by Friday morning.”
Hood noted that the City of Hamilton had purchased 100 trees for the city-sponsored, chamber-organized event.
Within a matter of minutes, not hours, on Tuesday, Nov. 14, teams working together from all the city’s departments were able to get the trees out of the boxes, laid all around the track, tied down, fluffed out and ready for decoration.
The well-organized crew included employees from the city’s fire, police, water, street, sanitation and recreation departments.
Hood said the water department ran lines under the track for power to be delivered to the trees.
“This was a big job,” she said. “There was a lot going on behind the scenes. I want to make sure people know that the workers were a gigantic part of this.
“The chamber organized and led this, but it wouldn’t have happened without the city workers and others who helped.”
She also expressed her appreciation for Sportees, Inc., which is making all the signs for the event.
“We are definitely thankful to the city and the mayor for sponsoring this and putting up something for the city to enjoy and bring businesses together,” she said.
Hood noted that participants will have until Nov. 30 to decorate their trees.
“The opening night is Friday, Dec. 1, and they’re going to light the trees around 5 p.m. that evening,” she said. “The lights will be on a timer and will come on each evening around 5 p.m. and stay on until 10 p.m.”
Visitors to the Walk of Trees will be able to vote for their favorite ones. A QR code will be set up at the entrance for people to scan and then be directed to a Google form.
“They can vote for their first, second and third favorite trees,” she said.
Judging will conclude on Dec. 23, with the winners being announced on Christmas Eve.
“We thought that would give people enough time to look and not have to make a rushed decision,” she said.
She said the winners will get a plaque from the chamber, “proving their place in the first-ever Walk of Trees.”
Hood also mentioned an added attraction special to opening night between 6 and 10 p.m.
“We’ll have horse carriage rides from downtown to the walking track and the chamber is sponsoring the rides,” she said. “People will be picked up from downtown at the Hamilton Hometown Christmas event and given rides to the track so they can walk the trail.
“I’m super excited about this, too. The carriage rides are chamber-sponsored and all the rides will be free.”
Hood is also enthusiastic about her position as office manager.
“I love this job,” she said. “It’s fun to be a part of the city more. I grew up here my whole life, but getting involved this way and getting to see events like the Buttahatchee River Fall Fest brought to life and where everybody in town is organized and comes together is a really fun job.”
She noted the Walk of Trees is the first event she’s been involved in from its very beginnings.
“I’ve really liked working on this with Ashley,” she said. “The city and the chamber are kind of partnered. The city had a great idea and I think a lot of people are really excited. It’s going to be beautiful once it’s all lit up.”
Chamber president Ashley Palmer, the chief operations officer for First National Bank in Hamilton, remarked on Hood’s hard work.
“Caroline has been the one doing the majority of the work behind the scenes to make this event possible,” she said. “She has done so many things and she has a great willingness to do this. She wants the city to succeed.”
Palmer explained that the Walk of Trees was publicized through social media outlets and through the chamber’s membership email list.
“We would encourage anyone who wants to know more about chamber events quicker to follow us on our social media outlets, as well as come by the office and inquire about becoming a chamber member.”
See complete story in the Journal Record.