The tradition of decorating a Christmas tree can be traced back to 15th century Germany. For many, it is the epitome of family, history and Christmas. In addition to those meanings, we also adore it as a symbol for luxury in the wilderness. People across the world balance the rugged beauty of a fresh cut tree with the luxuriousness of twinkling lights, glass ornaments and edible garlands.  In November, The Ranch at Rock Creek staff joined over 200 community members in celebrating this custom at the Granite County Festival of Trees.

person looking at a christmas tree with

The Festival of Trees Gala Auction raised money to finance healthcare projects for the Granite County Medical Foundation. It is part of our continued investment in local healthcare and emergency services. In 2013, The Ranch at Rock Creek donated $25,000 to help pay for a new generator at the Granite County Medical Center. The new model ensures that they can provide medical services for residents and visitors even in inclement weather, after Tropical Storm Sandy showed the dangers of failing hospital generators.

We love our rural landscape and untouched wilderness; however, medical care is an essential part of making the adventure safe and enjoyable for our visitors each year. The Granite County Festival of Trees is one of many Granite County causes that The Ranch at Rock Creek staff and company support each year; part of our mission is to be an active part of the local community and give back whenever we can. Long-time Ranch employee Shannon Drage serves as the Secretary of the Granite County Medical Foundation.

We were one of three event sponsors at this inaugural Festival, providing necessary event operation funds and in-kind donations. In addition, The Ranch at Rock Creek donated $5,000 on the night of the Gala Auction. The event raised over $20,000 toward Foundation projects, which will combine with grant awards to fund emergency services, health education, long-term care facility beds and well-child exams.

The Granite County Festival of Trees displayed 16 trees, including our Cowboy Christmas Tree, that were decorated by community artists and sponsored by local businesses and associations. The 2014 theme was “Granite County,” so taking you through an auction list at the Festival is like taking you on a tour of The Ranch and its surroundings. Here are some of our favorite 2014 Festival trees.

1. Homesteader’s Scandinavian Christmas Tree

Local painter and quilter, Shelley Johnson, created a tree inspired by the Montana pioneer experience. Many Granite County ranches were homesteaded by recent Swedish, Irish, English, Norwegian and German immigrants following the Homestead Act of 1862. The tree boasted hand-made ornaments, painted in the traditional Scandinavian “rosemaling” technique, as well as straw ornaments and an appliquéd tree skirt. (An old advertisement for Swede’s Bar in nearby Drummond, Mont.)

2. Riva Ridge Ranch Tree

This tree was a trip down memory lane for two local Philipsburg residents, who designed it in honor of the family ranch where they were raised. The décor included wire garland, repurposed from actual fencing on the ranch, denim pockets, red bandanas, real cowboy hats and cowboy boots. It reminds us of the proud tradition of ranching that is thriving in the area today, and pushes us to always strive for an authentic ranch experience.

3. Forest Friends Tree

Depending upon timing and viewpoint, visitors can see coyote, fox, moose, deer, bighorn sheep, elk, wolves, rabbits, chipmunks and mountain lions wandering through our diverse terrain. Decorated by Cynde Cheek-Ascheman, this tree was filled with ornaments depicting our wildlife and reminding people that we protect our area and its residents by using our forests responsibly.

4. Discovery Ski Tree

In a recent Philipsburg Mail article, local resident Ed Lord explained Granite County’s Discovery Ski Area by saying, “I’ve skied 64 areas west of the Mississippi and the best skiing is practically in my backyard.” Discovery is located only 25 minutes from The Ranch and winter guests can experience its seven lifts and 67 runs with a complimentary day of skiing, including Ski Concierge services. Local artist Ruth McDonald and her daughter, Alex, decorated a tree that was fiercely loyal to the mountain, including tree-lined runs, snowboarders, skiers and a chocolate chip cookie topper–a Lodge specialty.

5. Visions of Sugarplums Tree

The Festival of Trees was held at the Taylor-Knapp building in historic Philipsburg. It is one of the buildings that helped garner the listings as one of America’s “Prettiest Painted Places” and “Best Town to Live in the Past” by Men’s Journal. A trip to Philipsburg on an après-ski or off-Ranch excursion includes sites like the nearby mining ghost town of Granite, sapphire mines, the 100+ year-old jail, dozens of shops, The Philipsburg Brewing Company taproom and The Sweet Palace Victorian candy shop. Ashley Roper’s décor was like walking the candy-filled isles of the store, stuffed with peppermint ornaments, bulbs filled with hard candy and local huckleberry taffy garlands.

6. Granite County Mining Tree

Montana is called “The Treasure State” because it’s rich in metals and minerals, and its state seal is filled with images of mountains, grasslands and mining equipment. In fact, many of the local ranches started as mining claims, some of which are still used today. Local miners dug for silver, gold, tungsten, sapphires and garnets. The Henderson Creek Ladies fitted the tree with hand-cut Montana state ornaments with the names of each local claim, miner’s tools and actual gold, silver, tungsten and sapphire ornaments. It was as rich in creativity as it was in local history.