Festival of Trees: Beloved holiday tradition returns
Deaborn — What do a Red Wings-themed Christmas tree, Willy Wonka’s famous purple hat and a singing Elvis have in common?
All three are part of the tree trimmings on display at this year’s Festival of Trees at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center in Dearborn. An annual display of unique holiday trees and decor that benefits the Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation, the festival kicks off with a preview gala Saturday night and runs through Nov. 26.
More than 7,000 people are expected to attend this year’s festival, which features 58 Christmas trees decorated and designed in a wide range of styles which are then raffled off. And while the decorations are top notch with a detailed mix of ornaments, ribbons, picks and accents, only a handful of trees are decorated by professional designers or florists.
“Most of the (designers) are regular people,” said Kim Leonard, part of a group of volunteers that puts on the festival every year.
This year’s trees cover a range of themes, from a five-foot tree completely decorated in honor of the King of Rock n’ Roll, Elvis Presley, to another with Michigan State University trimmings (including mascot Sparty). One tree this year pays homage to the 50th commemoration of the Vietnam War.
Aside from the trees, the 33rd annual festival will feature a larger area for visits with Santa this year, along with a bigger gift store and more activities for kids. It’ll also include a 212-foot Lego display created by the Michigan Lego Users Group. Volunteers put the finishing touches on the display late Saturday morning, which includes a helicopter pad, Star Wars components, and new this year, a Lego version of Detroit’s own QLine.
“It’s never been display before,” said Chris Leach of Wayne, part of the Michigan Lego Users Group which donates the display.
The Festival of Trees is the primary fundraiser for the Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation, which has grown to $15.5 million and supports pediatric research.
Festival President Scott Killingbeck says every year they listen to festival-goers’ feedback and take their comments into consideration for the following year.
“We are constantly changing and evolving,” said Killingbeck,who decorated this year’s 12-foot Friendship Tree.
But their main goal is to help the foundation and on Sunday, a private gathering will be held for roughly 150 families who have terminally ill children. Killingbeck says that Sunday gathering is why he and dozens of others donate their time to the festival.
“It’s our way of giving back,” Killingbeck said.
Festival of Trees
■ Nov. 19-26 at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center, 15801 Michigan Avenue in Dearborn.
■ Adults are $5, children (ages 3-16) are $3, under 2 is free. It benefits the Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation.
■ Preview Gala on Saturday night.
■ For information, http://fot.org/wp/.