Christmas tree decorating contest winners

This year’s winners of Temple Civic Theatre’s Christmas tree decorating contest are Tiny Hooves Rescue and Petting Zoo. Pictured are Tiny Hooves owners Steven and Shelby Houston.

The results are in, and Tiny Hooves Rescue and Petting Zoo decorated the best little Christmas tree.

The inaugural “Best Little Christmas Tree Decorating Contest Ever!” was organized by the Temple Civic Theatre and featured trees from Academie Musique, the Czech Heritage Museum, AWARE Central Texas, and Tiny Hooves Animal Rescue.

Temple Civic Theatre Office Manager Marta Satterwhite said she got the idea for the contest from a family member and decided to add a twist to it.

“My brother worked at The Alley Theatre in Houston for a number of years,” she said. “They have an annual event called Deck the Trees that serves as a fundraiser for the theatre. I thought of flipping it and giving money and recognition to our local organizations. This was our first year to present this opportunity, and we plan to continue it going forward.”

Each organization decorated a tree, and more than 450 theatre patrons voted for their favorite one.

“We received comments from patrons, volunteers, and Board members about how wonderful the project is,” said Satterwhite. “Each tree was decorated and left in the theatre lobby. It gave a joyful feeling to all that stepped inside. The voting window was November 12th through December 12th.”

Tiny Hooves Rescue and Petting Zoo founder Shelby Michalewicz said she used family heirlooms she saw her mother use throughout her childhood to decorate the winning tree.

“We had animal ornaments, and a lot of them were vintage,” she said. “My mom collected those when I was a child. She always loved animals, and she passed them on to me. Those are the ornaments we use on our tree, so we just thought to use them. I love them because you can’t find them anymore.”

Besides the vintage ornaments, Michalewicz also featured images of some of the animals she rescues to adorn the tree.

“We also added pictures of our adoptable animals and made it an adoption tree,” she said. “I guess everyone loves animals because we had a ton of votes.”

The winner received a $500 donation for their organization.

“The last two years have been difficult for everyone,” said Satterwhite. “The theatre has been able to survive through the generous support of our community. This was a wonderful way to bring awareness and donations to other organizations that benefit Central Texas.”

Tiny Hooves focuses on unusual animals that are harder to care for or need specialized habitats.

“We really needed that money,” Michalewicz said. “We’re going to use that donation to pay for our animal shelters that were damaged from the blizzard in February. We have fallow deer, macaws, ferrets, chinchillas, bearded dragons, iguanas, hedgehogs, goats, sheep, emus, wallabies. We have a wide variety.”

The rescue is currently operating out of Michalewicz’ house in Temple. She hopes to open a farm to place the animals and allow people to interact with them to raise funds.

“This year, it has been really rough on our family,” she said. “We’re looking to raise about $20,000 to get our animal rescue facility up. It’s going to be a fully operational facility that we won’t have to run out of our house anymore. We would like to open up the farm to the community and the public so they can have an animal experience and pet the animals. We have a lot of goals that we’re trying to meet in the next year.”