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Festival of Trees marks 30 years of holiday delights

Row of assorted Christmas trees decorated with lights, bows and garland.
More than 750 uniquely decorated Christmas trees are up for auction at the Festival of Trees at the Interstate Center through Saturday.

The Interstate Center in Bloomington is celebrating an early Christmas this weekend as the Baby Fold holds its 30th annual Festival of Trees.

The Baby Fold is a nonprofit based in Normal centered on providing services for children and families in central Illinois. The Festival of Trees is one of 12 programs held by the organization to raise money to provide services like foster care, adoption, early intervention, and special education.

Over 750 Christmas trees, centerpieces, wreaths, and gingerbread houses will be on display throughout the festival and available for auction during the event.

A gingerbread house holiday display with multiple Christmas trees and snow
A gingerbread house display is up for auction at the Baby Fold's Festival of Trees at the Interstate Center.

“You can come out to the Interstate Center and see all the sights, sounds, and smells of the holidays. It’s a three-day long giant display with Christmas items, and 100% of proceeds support the children served,” said Sam Guillory, the Baby Fold’s vice president of development and public relations.

All of the trees are artificial and individually designed for the festival that opened Thursday.

“You don’t have to worry about watering it, needles getting all over the house. You don’t have to vacuum up after these trees. This is a tree that’s going to last you for years to come,” said Guillory, adding it’s not an issue to recreate the unique look at home.

“That’s all done for you. You literally can just box or bag the tree up, put it in the basement, pull it back out and it’s just as beautiful the next year,” he said.

two flower centerpieces
Flower centerpieces are among the more than 750 Christmas-themed displays that will be up for auction at the Festival of Trees this weekend at the Interstate Center.

The ornaments and other decorations that make the trees distinctive are attached with wires for an easy set-up and tear-down process. Auction items start as low as $10.

Guillory admits it’s a challenge to create something new every year for an event with so much history.

“When you have an event that’s been around for 30 years like the Festival of Trees, you have to reengage and reinvest in that event to keep families coming for years to come,” said Guillory, adding it’s “really neat” seeing the fest become a tradition for families.

“Mom and dad came as a child, and now they’re bringing their own children with grandma and grandpa in tow as well,” he said.

Friday night is Avanti’s family night, featuring popular children’s characters like Spiderman and Queen Elsa, and Saturday features a holiday market with 11 local vendors selling items like jewelry, pottery, and custom wood crafts. There also will be pictures with Santa, and Christmas cookies and hot cocoa for sale.

Tickets for the festival are on sale online at festoftrees.org or at the door.

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Erik Dedo is a reporting and audio production intern at WGLT. He joined the station in 2022.
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