Teens display their ‘talents’ in Mr. Christmas Tree pageant

BRISTOL — Around 250 people crowded into Holley Hall in Bristol on Dec. 16 to watch the first ever Young Life Mr. Christmas Tree pageant.
Six senior boys from Mount Abraham Union High School competed, in traditional pageant style, with a formal wear interview, bathing suit, and talent portions followed by a parade of “Living Christmas Trees.” Each young man was given the name of a type of Christmas tree and wore sashes with those names displayed.
Travis Bachand was Mr. Fir, Gabe Mattison was Mr. Spruce, Henry Koenig was Mr. Pine, Barry Longe was Mr. Cedar, Luke Calzini was Mr. Balsam, and Will Van Buren was Mr. Evergreen.
Those in attendance were treated to humorous hosts “Kringle and Jingle” — fictitious entertainers from North Las Vegas played by Chris Carter and Jake Nop. Complete with three-piece suits and ’70s-era wigs, Kringle and Jingle introduced the contestants for each of the segments and even invited the capacity crowd to stand and sing several familiar Christmas carols throughout the evening.
Each contestant was interviewed by Kringle and Jingle, with each “ridiculous”  question leading to a humorous answer.
After the crowd was invited to stand and sing “Jingle Bells” together, they were shown a two-minute “training” video showing the six senior guys in various “training exercises” — lifting weights, running stairs, practicing ballet.
Each contestant displayed his “swimsuit,” which included cut-off jean shorts, a grass skirt with coconut bra and a box decorated like a fire trunk held on with suspenders.
Then it was time for another video — a four-minute piece on the Young Life camp in Saranac Lake, N.Y.
Two joke-telling elves, played by Mary-Kate Clark and Keegan Jackman, made transition times in the program funnier than the corny jokes they told. The energy in the room was fueled by the outrageous costumes and choreographed dance acts by the contestants and their “elves.”
Each contestant also participated in a “talent” competition. These talents included Mr. Pine lip-syncing the song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” while his three elves danced behind him; Mr. Evergreen joined on stage by two underclassman boys and all three of them performing a dance routine wearing tutus; and Mr. Balsam singing the Hawaiian-themed Christmas song “Mele Kalikimaka” while playing the ukulele.
The crowd again stood and sang together. This time it was “Deck the Halls.”
Judging the evening’s performance were Mount Abe Principal Andy Kepes, local business owner Shawn Oxford, Mount Abe fall musical director Martha Chesley, long-time Young Life supporter Joe Duval, and Mount Abe teachers Colleen Kiley and Melanie Stultz-Backus.
After the crowd stood and sang “Silent Night” together, the Young Life ministry was explained. YL is a Christian organization that reaches out to teens and builds relationships with them. Members of the group do lots of fun things together. Adult volunteers who take part in the fun also hope to earn the privilege of talking to the youth about something that they think matters most of all — the truth about God and His love. Local volunteers include Nancy Orvis, Katie Nickitas, Kathleen Clark, Chad Disorda, Annie Denny and Amy Mansfield. The area director is Todd Goodyear.
After an hour of good, clean fun and entertainment, the results were announced. Mr. Balsam, Luke Calzini, was crowned the 2013 Mr. Christmas Tree!
After receiving his “Mr. Christmas Tree” sash and over-sized candy cane bouquet, Calzini waved to the cheering crowd. 
MR. CHRISTMAS TREE contestants celebrate a successful show. Shown from left are Will Van Buren, Barry Longe, Luke Calzini, Travis Bachand, Gabe Mattison and Henry Koenig. Photo by Buzz Kuhns

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