Festival of trees shines

Niko Robledo, Photo Editor

SPRINGFIELD – A live band playing “Jingle Bells,” children laughing, the faint chuckling of old Saint Nick. That only means one thing, the holiday season is finally upon us, and that means it’s once again time for Memorial’s Festival of Trees.

Held in the Orr Building on the Illinois’ State Fairgrounds, the Festival of Trees is an annual event that calls local artists to design trees, gingerbread houses, and wreaths. All the finished products will be sold and the profits donated to health-related projects and programs at Memorial Health System and in the Springfield community.

Since 1989, an average of 35,000 people a year come to the Festival of Trees and it has been able to raise more than $4.6 million. A main source of profit is the Gingerbread Village silent auction, where visitors are able to bid on gingerbread houses.

Trees and wreaths are also available for purchase.   

“We have 99 7-foot trees,17 4-foot trees, and 56 wreaths. Then we have student trees that are designed by high schoolers; we have 18 of those.” said Regan Hennemann, a Development Program Manager for the festival. “Then we have mini-trees that are designed by daycares, preschools, little kids, and we probably have 70 of those. So overall, we (have) over 300 designed pieces out here because we also have centerpieces, along with the Gingerbread Village structures.”

While the concept of trees and decorations stays the same, the festival changes its theme every year to keep the art inside the festival fresh and delightful. The theme for this year was “Skates, Sleds & Snow.” Some new additions include a ski lift with two mannequins and a multitude of hanging snowflakes. Besides the scenery, the festival added 3 more kid-friendly food options to their kitchen menu. They added pecan pie, macaroni and cheese, and uncrustables.

One of the most recent changes for the festival is the introduction of their paint night. This is the second year, the sold-out paint night hosted 150 patrons on Nov. 14.

“It’s sort of like a private party. We actually painted the penguin in the showcase, who is driving the VW bus. The business that we partner with called ‘It’s Scrapicated.’ Everybody painted ‘Pip’ the penguin or the Festival of Trees logo.” Hennemann said.

The Festival of Trees has become a staple of the Springfield community calling adults and children alike to enjoy the holiday cheer it radiates. The festival takes place each year during the last two weeks of November.


Niko Robledo can be reached at [email protected].