The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

December 5, 2013

Windber’s festival of trees will brighten homestead

Ruth Rice

WINDBER — Those in the present have decorated Christmas past.

A Festival of the Trees will be held from 1 to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 29 at Windber Area Museum, 601 15th St.

The festival is held in the former Daniel Shaffer homestead, the first house built in Windber, said Nancy Pruchnic, a museum volunteer.

“The house was sold to Berwind Coal Co. and is located behind their main office,” Pruchnic said. “In 1972, the borough bought it to make a museum.”

There will be 10 to 12 decorated trees in the 10-room house, all done with what Pruchnic called everyday decorations.

Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops assisted by crafting homemade decorations for their trees. One of the troops used cardinals and birdhouses they painted for their tree.

Other trees were decorated by members of the community.

The tree in the kitchen is decorated with dried fruit and popcorn.

“This is typical of the early settlers,” Pruchnic said. “They did with what they had.”

Members of a local Red Hat Society chapter decorated a whole room in the group’s signature colors of red and purple.

A tree in another room is adorned with children’s old shoes and hats that were in the room, and a Victorian tree is decorated with adult hats.

At least two volunteers will be available for guided tours, or visitors can explore the trees and the museum on their own.

“There will be placards explaining who decorated each tree, and we have literature on Windber and the coal mines,” Pruchnic said. “We will have coal cars and other souvenirs for sale.”

The house is furnished in the style of the early 1900s, and there are  rooms dedicated to sports and school memorabilia, coal mining, Windber Hospital, the military and children’s toys.

The outside of the museum will be decorated with lights.

Rather than charging admission, donations for the museum will be accepted during the festival.

In addition to the weekend hours, private tours for individuals and families can be held weekdays by appointment.

“We’ve had a festival for the past 10 years with museum volunteers and community groups,” Pruchnic said. “Years ago, we had a bigger festival with more volunteers and theme rooms.”

Ruth Rice covers Features for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at