You expect toys to be under the tree on Christmas day, but one Christmas tree featured at the Festival of Trees next month might be its own gift to a local family.
Last year, a local organization filled a Christmas tree with toy decorations instead of traditional ornaments. On the last day of the festival, instead of taking the tree, the organization donated it to a local family, said Beth Shaha, special events coordinator at the Centre County United Way.
“There was about $500 worth of toys to go along with it,” Shaha said. “It was pretty special.”
She expects the same organization to bring it back this year, where it will be among about 65 Christmas trees that will be filled with toys, books and other decorations that represent the organization creating it.
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The mission of the Festival of Trees, which is in its 20th year, is to celebrate the holidays while raising money for the Centre County United Way and its 34 partner agencies, Shaha said.
The United Way took over the festival four years ago and has hosted it the past two years at Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science & Technology.
Each tree is provided by the United Way to participating organizations through Kuhns Tree Farm in Centre Hall. Organizations also will have a bucket to accompany each tree so that festival visitors can make donations.
The festival has raised $5,000 to $7,000 each year under United Way direction.
Shaha’s long-term vision is to expand the festival in hopes of raising $15,000 to $20,000, and open it up to more interactive opportunities that would include a Christmas tree decorating contest.
“We’ve had it in the past with judging and everything,” Shaha said. “(We) are working to possibly bring it back and make the festival better each year.”
The event annually attracts about 2,000 people, Shaha said.
This year will also include live entertainment with a different band playing a mix of Christmas and other music every hour.
CPI will serve food catered by its culinary students, and the horticulture department will sell wreaths and poinsettias.
“It’s a huge community event,” Shaha said. “I think if you haven’t seen the Festival of Trees, you have to come out. It should be part of holiday plans that’s inexpensive and where people come together for a common cause.”