by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: MARK MILLER - A Christmas tree on South First Street in St. Helens, in front of the Columbia Theatre. In the background, two more trees can be seen along the same block. The trees, which measure between 6 feet and 8 feet in height, were donated by Jeannine JJ Duehren, who wants businesses and individuals to decorate them as part of a holiday contest.Twenty-four Christmas trees now stand along city streets in St. Helens, courtesy of a St. Helens Economic Development Corp. volunteer.

Now, SHEDCO is asking local businesses and residents to help decorate the 6- to 8-foot trees for the holidays.

Jeannine "JJ" Duehren, who donated the trees, said the group is holding a contest with awards and prizes to see who can produce the most festive tree.

"We've got a lot of businesses that have done the scarecrow competition that are coming on board to decorate the Christmas trees," Duehren said, referring to the October event in which private individuals and businesses set out Halloween-themed decorations in Old Town and the Houlton district.

But Duehren said anyone is free to add some flair to a tree.

"If people want to just go and put decorations on these trees, that would be really great," said Duehren.

The trees have been placed in flagpole sittings along Columbia Boulevard, St. Helens Street and South First Street, as well as around Plaza Square, with trees standing alongside St. Helens City Hall and the historic Columbia County Court House. Duehren credited Neal Sheppeard, supervisor and interim co-director of the St. Helens Public Works Department, for coming up with the idea for where to place them.

Sheppeard did not return calls requesting comment before press time.

The trees themselves came from Jobin's Christmas Trees in Warren, which Duehren said offered her a discounted rate when she purchased them for donation to the city.

St. Helens City Administrator John Walsh said in an email Wednesday that he is thankful for the tree donation and for local business-owners who have decorated the trees.

“The donated trees are a nice addition to the Houlton and Olde Towne business districts this holiday season,” Walsh wrote, using a common alternative spelling for the part of the city that includes City Hall and many of St. Helens' oldest buildings. “The trees add to the candy cane poles and continue efforts to make the downtown areas more attractive and inviting.”

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