Festival of Trees flips the switch on the Christmas Season this weekend at Greater Tacoma Convention Center, all for the benefit of MultiCare Mary Bridge Children's Hospital & Health Center.
This year, the festival welcomes two special guests.
Santa will be there, of course, waiting for children to remind him of how good they have been all year, and to smile for an ElfCam photo.
On Saturday, Hello Kitty, live and in the fur, will be purring and accepting pats until noon. Look for the ageless feline diva by the Hello Kitty tree, featuring 100 stuffed toys in her image.
That tree will be one of 60 assembled by volunteer designers, all trying to outdo the others with a dazzling combination of gifts and décor. Look for the Great Gatsby tree, complete with an ostrich feather topper and the oceanic tree with two SeaDoos.
Mary Bridge's guild volunteers held the first Festival of Trees here 27 years ago, beginning a tradition that has raised $21 million for pediatric care resources. The festival has helped pay for a mobile intensive care unit, new technology, and services at Tree House, a Place for Families whose children are in the hospital. Organizers hope to top the $1.7 million they raised last year. This year's donations will help support two new inpatient wards, including the pediatric intensive unit.
As it grew beyond the scope of volunteers, Mary Bridge Children's Foundation and Mary Bridge Brigade took over the year-long task of organizing a five-day festival including an employee's night, a ladies' night, plus two auctions and galas.
The festival overwhelms the senses, and in a good way. There's music, and the scent of the noble firs. Kids can make crafts and shop for their friends. Adults can do the shopping, but skip the glue and glitter. And, of course, there are candy canes by the barrel.
Public days at Festival of Trees are:
Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
At Greater Tacoma Convention Center, 1500 Broadway.
Admission is $6 for adults, $2 for students 13-18 years old, and free for children 12 and under.