One year ago, Brownsville Heritage Museum assistant Ricky Garza was decorating a Christmas tree in the museum's lobby with a co-worker when the pair thought, why not invite the community to bring in trees and overflow the museum with the holiday spirit?
The Brownsville Herald reports that conversation turned into a reality this year with the museum's first ever Christmas Tree Forest exhibit.
"We thought that it would be a great community event for people to see, and, of course, we want people to come in and see what we're about," Garza said. "If we could just get people to bring beautiful trees . it would be a little forest of trees."
So far, it's been a huge success for the exhibit that opened in early December.
"Everybody that did come by and see the trees, first of all, they said how beautiful the exhibit was and how beautiful the trees were decorated," Garza said.
The Brownsville Heritage Museum received 15 submissions via social media for its inaugural exhibit, including entries from Texas Southmost College, Stell Middle School and Brownsville Craft Beer Enthusiasts, he said.
"Also, there's a story behind each tree," Garza said.
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A submission by sisters Araceli and Maria Herrera celebrates the life of their late mother.
"Christmas was a special time for her," Garza said, explaining that their mother could not afford a Christmas tree when they were young children.
However, when the sisters grew up, they would buy her a Christmas tree, which she always loved decorating with different themes and colors.
"The daughters wanted to honor her," Garza said.
Another submission carries a powerful message that spotlights suicide prevention efforts for veterans, Garza said.
The Harlingen Veterans Affairs Recover Group, which is part of the VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System, runs a daily recovery meeting for veterans suffering from PTSD made that submission.
"We're thankful to the participants for helping us out this year on our first attempt to do this tree forest and I think it's a great event for the community," Garza said.
The Christmas Tree Forest exhibit is on display through Jan. 5, and the Brownsville Heritage Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
However, it is a small museum that operates off of admissions.
Garza said entry for adults is $6, senior citizens are charged $4 and admission costs $2 for students. However, Brownsville Independent School District students and active or retired military members may visit free of charge.