You’d think after 50 years, people would stop asking Ms. Evergreen such an obvious question at Lima’s annual Christmas Tree Festival.
“Where are you? Where are you?” a little boy from the Learning Tree Child Care Center asks, looking directly at the Douglas fir tree taken from the Johnny Appleseed Metroparks District.
“I’m right here!” she responds in a calm voice.
“I can’t see you though!” the boy answers, his eyes wandering around the general store at the Allen County Museum, searching for a source of the voice that makes more sense to him than the giant tree behind a wire screen.
They’ll ask her questions to prove that she’s there, about what clothes they’re wearing, who’s raising a hand, whatever. She answers them all accurately and with holiday joviality, with the precision of a magical tree with pretty good vision.
In an hour spent with Ms. Evergreen on Wednesday, she must’ve answered this question a dozen times, with nearly every group that came through, from preschoolers through high schoolers all the way through people who could’ve been at the first festival back in 1973.
“If you look at my crown, you can understand that it’s my magical crown that allows me to speak to you this morning,” she says.
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She’ll be replanted in the parks again after the Christmas Tree Festival wraps up Sunday, with hours from noon to 5 p.m. at the museum, 620 W. Market St., Lima. The real magic is how Ms. Evergreen remains so unflustered by people asking the same question over and over again while using such a calming voice, which resembles the tone of a retired teacher.
When people get past the magic, one of the most popular interactions with Ms. Evergreen is touching her branches. When Ms. Evergeen giggles in return, the laughter is infectious.
“I tickled it!” one girl from a daycare said.
Donna Creamer helps coordinate visits with Ms. Evergreen over the past five years. She remembers one man in his early 20s who comes in every year on his birthday and asks Ms. Evergreen to sing “Happy Birthday” to him. He tells them the tree sang to him on his birthday for as long as he could remember.
While older people enjoy the holiday tradition, it’s hard to beat the enthusiasm of youth.
“One little girl last year just kept jumping up and down,” Creamer said. “She was just so excited about Ms. Evergreen. She just kept jumping around and talking to the tree and then running back again. It is very cute.”
Newspaper accounts from the 1970s suggest Ms. Evergreen has been there since the start.
The visits can be a multi-generational affair. Pam Baker remembers taking her children through the festival when they were young. On Wednesday, her daughter, Amanda Rose, brought her 2-year-old son Loudon and 1-year-old daughter Piper through it. Amanda noted Loudon just loves Christmas trees.
“We love that Lima does this,” Amanda Rose said. “Small towns need more stuff like this. Family stuff is good.”
It’s hard to know how you end a conversation with a talking Christmas tree. There’s really only one right answer.
Kick into a festival holiday song, and enjoy the Christmas spirit.
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