The 19th Annual Festival of Trees, sponsored by the Mesquite Arts Council, was held at the CasaBlanca Event Tent Wednesday, Nov. 18 through Saturday Nov. 21. Entertainment throughout the four day event was provided by many community members and groups. All of the entertainment was very good but none got the attention of the crowd the way the kids and veterans did.
Crowds of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles gathered to watch their young family members perform in dance teams and choirs. The Virgin Valley Elementary Chorus, led by Jenny Bennett, began the festival’s entertainment immediately following the opening ceremony on Wednesday evening.
Thursday’s lineup included the Hughes Middle School Dance Team, led by dance instructor Denise Houson, followed by the Bowler Elementary School Choir led by Music Director Cathy McCann. Thursday evening’s entertainment ended with the Virgin Valley High School Show Choir rocking the house.
Friday’s entertainment took on a different flavor as Mayor Al Litman presented special honors to several Mesquite residents who had served in each of the wars from WWII to Afghanistan. Veterans honored during this ceremony were: Gil Byrne (WWII), Kenneth Kenyon (Korea), Tony Hardway (Korea and Vietnam), Edwin MacKenzie (Vietnam), Bryan Plum (Desert Storm) and Robert Stepp (Afghanistan).
The veteran’s ceremony was the best attended by audience members who wished to honor these brave men who have over the many years provided our country with the freedoms we enjoy. Veterans young and old received many heart-felt thanks and well wishes from the crowd.
Edwin MacKenzie was honored for his 28 years of service in the Air Force and as a Vietnam Vet but was also noted for his contribution to the arts in Mesquite. MacKenzie moved to Mesquite after working for a theatre company in California for several years. When he discovered there was no theatre in Mesquite he approached the members of the Mesquite Arts Council for sponsorship which they did. In 2000 MacKenzie founded the Virgin Valley Theatre Group and began producing plays in the High School Theater until a few years later when the city acquired the old elementary school. MacKenzie, along with theater manager Bob Nelson, headed the group who then transformed the old elementary school stage into what is known now as the Mesquite Community Theatre, home of the VVTG.
MacKenzie remains on the board of Trustees for the VVTG and has been an active member of the Greater Mesquite Arts Foundation and other groups since his move to Mesquite. Mayor Litman said in his speech honoring MacKenzie, “The beautiful theater and the outstanding plays being done here are all the dream and hard work of Ed MacKenzie. Not only did he serve his country well, he has served his community with heart and soul.”
The ceremony closed with a special saxophone performance by Ed Gutierrez who received a special honor for his service in WWII. Gutierrez also received honors from the Mesquite Arts Council and became a lifetime honorary member for his contribution to the arts community in Mesquite and his willingness to perform for everyone and anyone who asks.
MAC would like to thank all Veterans for their service to the United States and their continued services to their community, and to the members of the community who came out in support of our brave military men and women. MAC would also like to thank the children and teachers who volunteered their time and talents and all of the attendees who supported them during the 19th Annual Festival of Trees. Donations from the festival help support the Virgin Valley Food Bank.