Museum trees seasonally eclectic

John Pluger took his turn at the bat, while Renee Goodwin pointed with pride to the other baseball-related ornaments on their tree.

Nordstrom, the favorite place to shop for (from left) Vanessa Enriquez, Erica Hinojos and Justine Navarrette, was also their inspiration for decorating a tree.

Remember as a kid losing a baseball in a tree? Well, there are no shortages of baseballs or trees through this December at the Kern County Museum in Bakersfield. Tis Clock Tower Holidays through December 29, and this festive season you will find the museum’s Main Gallery occupied by tall evergreens filled with curious ornaments — everything from baseballs to shopping receipts. This year’s theme is “My Favorite Things,” and depending on the tree decorator, “favorite things” ran the imaginatively eclectic and wonderful gamut.

Visitors got their first look during the opening reception on Nov. 19 — a night of gazing at wondrous tree works of art and equally splendid holiday wreaths created by local artists. There was plenty of delicious food, beverages, a silent auction for the wreaths, and a contest to decide which artists had created the most award-worthy displays. This year’s “Over The Top” winner was “Nightmare Before Christmas” — a tree designed by Denise Kobdish that featured ghouls and goblins that conveyed a surprisingly festive mood.

“I got the idea while I was visiting the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland,” Kobdish said. “I have designed a tree every year since the event originated, but this idea I could not stop talking about on the way home. I couldn’t wait to get in the museum and get started.”

Renee Goodwin and John Pluger of The Cunningham Group combined talents to design the “Most Patriotic” tree — one they called “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Ironically, Goodwin thought she was thrown a curve when the museum staff told her baseball would be her theme this year.

“I don’t know much about baseball, which ought to be pretty evident when you see baseball cards hanging in the tree of such little known players as Todd Frohwirth and Gary Thurman," Goodwin said. "But before I put holes in the cards, I called my son to make sure I wouldn’t be defacing any rare cards that might be worth some money. When I read him the names, he told me, ‘don’t worry, Mom, you’ve got nothing.’”

Consulting with Pluger and “panicking all week” Goodwin did put together a memorable winner complete with baseballs, miniature baseball bats and caps, Cracker Jack and peanut boxes. If you were looking for the “Best Tree Topper,” the Enriquez Women, who ended up winning the “Best Scene” award instead, might have received a few votes for theirs. They had a pair of “bedazzling” gold high heels stuffed in the highest reaches of the tree, which seemed to put an exclamation point on their theme which was “Shopping at Nordstrom.”

“We actually went to the Santa Barbara Nordstrom’s for our materials — I mean what girl doesn’t love Nordstrom’s, of course it has ‘My Favorite Things,’” said Vanessa Enriquez. “Our tree is for women who have an affinity for Nordstrom’s,” chimed in Justine Navarrette. “And we already had a lot of the supplies we needed for the tree as a result of shopping there, such as receipts, boxes, wrapping paper and ornaments,” added Erica Hinojos.

As for the shoes at the top, Enriquez said she was “coaxed” up on a ladder to finish off the trio’s production.

Now, as for the real winner of the “Best Tree Topper,” that went to Starbase Jamison for their creation, “Vintage Science Fiction,” which it was. Seven friends who have used a science fiction theme each year of the competition put their heads together to come up with a tree which “hovers” above ground in the Main Gallery. It has interesting sci-fi ornaments, such as the “daleks,” which may not be in everyone’s vocabulary. According to Daryl Curtis, one of the seven designers, it is a robot with a human brain that lacks emotion and dates back to the 1960s in sci-fi lore.

“Our display is called ‘Vintage Science Fiction’ because we have ornaments hanging on the tree, such as old books, posters and plastic figures, which date from the 1920s through the 60s,” said Jennifer Curtis. “We always want to be a part of this because we can help the museum and do something for the community at the same time. Our charity is the Jamison Center, and our efforts here are hopefully a good way of getting the word out, besides its fun creating these trees.”

The rest of the award winners were:

Most Appealing to Children — “4-H Pets and Animals,” UC 4-H Youth Development Program
Best Homemade Ornaments — “Children Love Snow for Christmas,” Society for Disabled Children
Best Non-Traditional Ornaments — “Vacationing at the Beach,” Valley Oaks Charter School
Best Use of Reusable Ornamentation — “Chef’s Delight,” Sandrini Concepts
Best Display of Community Pride — “NOR Fun,” North of the River Recreation and Parks District

And the People’s Choice Award went to “California Native Daughters of the Golden West,” El Tejon Parlor

The displays will be exhibited through Dec. 29 (except Nov. 26-27 and Dec. 24-25), and other holiday events — Holiday Lamplight Tours and Cookies at the Clock Tower — are also planned on Dec. 5 and Dec. 19. Check the museum’s Web site, for more details and admission pricing.

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