New Holiday Activities Abound at This Year's Festival
The 14th annual Festival of Trees is the premier holiday event in the Sandhills of North Carolina and is orchestrated by Sandhills Children’s Center and the Festival Planning Committee to benefit pre-school children with disabilities served by the center in Moore, Richmond and surrounding counties. The Carolina Hall at the Carolina Hotel in Pinehurst will be transformed into a glittering holiday wonderland for six days from Nov. 9-14.
A stroll through this time-honored tradition, in its 14th year, marks the beginning of the holiday season for many families.
“What makes Festival of Trees so exciting is its association with the holiday season,” says Kathy Desmond, director of development. “It is a time of year that naturally lends itself to decorations, lights and celebrating. People are in a festive mood and looking for ways to celebrate the season with their families and friends. It is a time for traditions, and we are pleased this has become a tradition in the Sandhills. Festival is a wonderful winter celebration that creates excitement in our community and raises much needed revenue for the special needs children served by Sandhills Children’s Center.”
Last year alone, more than 8,000 friends and neighbors of the Children’s Center enjoyed the excitement, raising more than $250,000! Over the past 14 years, the festival has had the support of more than 600 designers, 300 sponsors, and well over 1,000 volunteers.
“We are so very grateful for the designers and sponsors who have been with us from the very first festival back in 1997,” says Desmond. “With their continued support, Festival has grown from 32 large trees to more than 250 items and has raised over $2,250,000 for the children with disabilities served at the center. With the guidance of a devoted festival planning committee, the Children’s Center has been able to evolve and grow this community-wide event to become the largest Festival of Trees in North Carolina. Our goal this year for the six-day event is to welcome 10,000 guests.”
Festival of Trees event coordinator Teresa Copper continues to be amazed at the variety of design items every year.
“Each year the designers outdo what they have done the year prior,” says Copper. “The Children’s Center is so fortunate to have a very dedicated planning committee that has been working diligently on Festival since January. Co-chairs Marie Lewis and Bonnie Parker have done a tremendous job of bringing newness to the event.”
When asked what their goal is for this year’s Festival, Lewis and Parker replied, “With the support of the guests who attend Festival, thousands will be able to tell the story of the special children who are served by Sandhills Children's Center.”
After 14 years, one may think that every kind of tree imaginable has made a debut at Sandhills Children’s Center’s Festival of Trees. However, Desmond says, “that just isn’t so.”
Take, for instance, this year’s addition of trees themed in Lego trimmings, a Kingfisher Society Experience, table settings themed from the coast of Italy, and trips to Vail, Colorado, West Palm Beach, Florida and Lake Champlain in the Adirondack Mountains.
“The creativity is unbelievable this year,” says Desmond. “I have no idea where their inspiration comes from.”
The festival opens Tuesday night with a Lighting of Festival of Trees celebration, where sponsors and patrons will have the first opportunity to preview and bid on items available through silent auction. The event begins at 6 p.m., with jazz pianist Jason Hurd offering entertainment. Tickets are $100 each.
On Wednesday, the public can start wandering the forest created in the newly renovated Carolina Hall at the Carolina Hotel in the village of Pinehurst, to seek out their favorite design and hopefully end up with the highest bid. There will be a Girls Night Out featuring the McKenzie Brothers Band from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. that evening. Admission is by donation.
On Thursday, Nov. 11, the 82nd Airborne Chorus performs at 7 p.m. On Friday, the local band House Call will perform from 7 to 10 p.m. as everyone is “rockin’ around the Christmas tree.” On Saturday, there will be Jingle Bell Jazz with the Kingfisher Society Jazz Ensemble beginning at 6 p.m., with the silent auction closing at 9 p.m. Admission is by donation.
Sunday is Family Day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., sponsored by Southern Pines Women’s Health Center, featuring a visit from Santa Claus (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and the last chance to see this year’s creations. Santa will also be present Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 to 5 p.m. A breakfast with Santa will be held at 9 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 11, and Saturday, Nov. 13. Tickets for that event are $35.
These proceeds have assisted Sandhills Children’s Center in providing its vital community program to children birth through 5 years old, with special developmental needs such as cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, autism, vision and/or hearing impairments, speech impediments and many other developmental disabilities. Currently the cost of care per child enrolled is approximately $60,000 per year. The center has always depended on community support to provide its mission, as more than 80 percent of the special needs children served come from poverty level homes. The program includes physical, occupational and speech therapy, class instruction by state certified educators, home-based services, transportation, meals and an abundance of love and affection.
“Sandhills Children’s Center has been serving children with disabilities for 40 years in the Sandhills area. We have been committed to providing the best educational and therapeutic services to our children on a year-round basis to enable them to reach their fullest potential, preparing them for kindergarten,” says Melanie C. Gayle, chief executive officer. “Don’t miss this opportunity to usher in the holiday season with friends and family and make a difference in a child’s life.”
For additional information about Festival of Trees visit www.festivaloftrees.org or call (910) 692-3323.
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