Local students decorate trees for bath house

Friends of Hot Springs National Park is once again hosting its annual Holiday Tree event, featuring student-made decorations from local schools and organizations, on display at the Ozark Bath House.

“I think anytime we can get children involved and in things — and I have nothing against video games — but, you know, it’s nice to see kids getting involved in the arts and different things and getting involved with their national park,” said Lance Albaugh, the volunteer coordinator for Friends of HSNP.

Seven trees will be displayed in the Ozark for the rest of the month. They were decorated by students from Hot Springs World Class High School, Hot Springs Junior Academy, Ouachita Children’s Center, Lakeside High School, Hot Springs Junior Academy Art Club, Lake Hamilton High School and Benton High School.

Since the schools provide their own trees, there are different sizes and colors displayed in the bath house. The only requirement for the competition is all the ornaments be made by students.

Some of the creative ideas the students presented include Lakeside High School’s “Bob Ross-inspired” tree, Lake Hamilton High School’s tree with decorated sweet gum round cutout ornaments and Benton High School’s tree with various food-inspired ornaments.

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By January, Friends of HSNP will announce the winning tree and the award for the students.

Albaugh said he hopes the event will bring more awareness to the national park and more people downtown to visit.

“You’d be surprised locally that people don’t come downtown here a lot, basically a lot because parking and things like that, and a lot of times, they don’t know about their own park,” he said. “So, if they come down because their kid’s involved with a tree and the kid wants them to see the tree. … Hopefully, they learn a little something about it and enjoy it.”

The nonprofit partner organization of the national park has been hosting the Holiday Tree event for around six years now. said Albaugh, who also serves on the board of directors for Friends of HSNP.

On the evening of the Oaklawn Rotary Christmas Parade, Friends of HSNP invited visitors to the Ozark Bath House to take a look at the trees and vote on their favorite during the Cocoa & Cookies on the Porch event.

Visitors can still vote on their favorite tree by visiting the Ozark between noon and 4 p.m. on a Saturday or Sunday until the end of the month. Walking through the doors of the bath house guarantees each visitor a ticket, which they can put into the box underneath their favorite tree.

“Anybody can come in and vote,” Albaugh said. “They don’t have to be even within the state. If they’re visiting here and they walk through the door, they get a ticket. So they can be from Texas. They can be from all over.”

  photo  Benton High School’s Holiday Tree was decorated with ornaments inspired by various foods. – Photo by Courtney Edwards of The Sentinel-Record
  photo  Hot Springs World Class High School students made varying Christmas ornaments for their Holiday Tree. – Photo by Courtney Edwards of The Sentinel-Record