They are the hardest working trees in the South Sound, those 70 noble Festival of Trees firs. This year they’ll begin their campaign for Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital & Health Center by welcoming a few thousand families to the Christmas season with six days of festivities at the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center. Then they’ll move out into homes and offices as centerpieces and seasonal sentinels. After all that, the profits from the tree fest will renovate the pediatric intensive care and medical/surgical units at Mary Bridge Festival trees, and the designers, donors and organizers who pull them all together, have a proud record of profit born of their imagination, organization and plain hard work. Over 25 years they have raised more than $20 million. They’ve chipped in for a helistop, emergency department, echocardiograph machine, defibrillator, EKG monitor and infant warmer for Mary Bridge. They helped open and operate Tree House, the hospital’s lodgings for sick kids’ families. They’ve done all that good by bringing holiday fun. A quarter century ago, the women of the Tacoma Orthopedic Association’s guilds hit on what was then a new idea in fundraising: They’d decorate Christmas trees, invite the public in to see them and enjoy entertainment and shopping. Then they’d auction off the trees at a gala. It was a hit from the start.
Its special events now include a night for MultiCare employees, Ladies’ Night Out, Jingle Bell Jam, the Gala and a day of special tours that give seniors and disabled people an alternative to the crowds of the two public days Saturday and Sunday. For its 25th anniversary theme, festival organizers picked “Let it shine!” Shine it always does. These trees carry lights by the thousands. Designers have their special ways with them, wrapping and running strands up and down the trunks and out to the branch trips. It is tree lore that, if you buy a tree you will struggle for days to get all those lights off of it. We are talking that kind of shine. The trees carry feathers and glass, toys and art. They carry butterflies, gardens, angels, train sets, toy shops, fishing gear, tropical fish, tea sets, settees and Harleys. You name it, a tree has brought it to the festival. On the public days, they have a merry accompaniment: Santa checks out the TOA Gift Shop and craft tables, then sticks around to meet young visitors for a chat and a photo.
Festival of Trees, by the numbers
25 Years that Festival of Trees has been benefitting Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital & Health Center in Tacoma.
$20.7 million Raised in the past 24 years for Mary Bridge.
1987 First year of Festival of Trees (with 61 trees that raised $80,000 in net proceeds).
1,691 Trees that have been decorated and auctioned since Festival began.
60 Decorated trees, and 5 Tablescapes that will be auctioned this year.
12,000-plus People attended Festival events in 2011, including three public days.
30,000 Hours of volunteer service in 2011 alone.
500,000 Estimated number of hours volunteered over the past 25 years.
Source: MultiCare Health Systems
See the trees:
Where: Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center, 1500 Broadway.
When: Dec. 1, 10 a.m. to 3p.m. and Dec. 2, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: General admission $6; students 13-18 $2; children 12 and under free.
Ladies’ Night Out, 6-9 p.m. Nov. 28, $75 tickets available through Nov. 25.
How to get there: Park for free in the transit garages at Freighthouse Square and take the free Tacoma Link to the convention center.
Information: Call (253) 403-3095