Endless greens at the Festival of Trees


Bryanna Ferreira, Staff Writer

Last weekend, I headed over to Tower Square in Downtown Springfield to see the collection of Christmas trees at the Springfield Boys and Girls Club annual Festival of Trees.

In the festival, families or business groups decorate fake christmas trees with anything they’d like. People generally incorporate a theme for each tree. About four years ago, my family donated a Winter Wonderland tree to the organization. We hung snowflakes all over the tree and put toys underneath it.

When the festival opens, people buy raffle tickets that they drop into buckets placed in front of each tree. After weeks of this, someone draws a ticket from each bucket and calls the phone number written on the ticket, informing the person that they have won a tree and can pick it up a week before Christmas.

When I was only five years old, I won a Barbie tree. I insisted that my dad put in on the front porch of our house for everyone to see.

As I was buying 25 raffle tickets for ten dollars, I peeked through the glass windows in attempt to catch a glimpse at the trees for this year.

When I walked into the large room, my vision was filled with the colors of the endless trees surrounding the entire room. I didn’t know where to begin!

My little brother and sister instantly ran up to a Mickey Mouse tree, asking my parents to put raffle tickets in for a chance to win the tree.

People of all ages walked around the room, placing their tickets in the buckets for trees they wanted. The majority of the festival’s population consisted of children, but there were also many adults and elderly couples.

The decorations and gifts accompanying each tree vary. Trees that come with alcohol have signs stating that only people 21 or older can participate in the raffle for it. There were trees with toys underneath them for children, while others had gift cards for various stores hanging all around them for an older crowd.

Personally, I hope to win the Rock and Roll tree because it has vinyl records hanging from every inch of it. There are records for old bands such as the Beatles. I also used up a lot of my raffle tickets on a Lush tree that included Lush brand bath bombs and soaps.

Some extraordinarily creative trees that caught my attention were the Mexican tree, which was shaped liked a cactus with a sombrero at the top, and a Halloween tree that was decorated with only Halloween decorations rather than Christmas ones.
At the back of the room, Santa Claus sits in a large chair, greeting the children. For no charge, kids can sit on Santa Claus’s lap to take a picture and tell him what they want for Christmas, something that kids look forward to when attending the festival. My brother and sister were too afraid to sit on Santa’s lap, but were still enthusiastic about seeing him.

Background on the Festival of Trees

This nonprofit organization began 16 years ago when Gary McCarthy, former CEO of the Springfield Boys and Girls Club, collaborated with another board member to create it.

McCarthy retired in 2013, but still helps with the creation of the fundraiser and volunteers to dress up as Santa Claus each year for the children.

“We knew about some tree festivals in other cities so we thought of replicating them because it might raise a lot of money,” says McCarthy.

The road to today’s elaborate festival was gradual. The first year only consisted of about 25 trees. It took until the 16th year to build up to 130 differently decorated Christmas trees. McCarthy informs that it took about eight or nine years for the festival to begin containing over 100 trees, provided by well known business such as CVS and Friendly’s as well as families who donate.

The success of the business has increased severely. The festival raised an exponentially greater amount of money each year for the past eight years, according to McCarthy.

The display of Christmas trees takes a lot of hard work to create. “For years, I used to work on this event for 30 or 40 days in a row,” McCarthy says. However, McCarthy says it’s worth the hard labor because all of the money goes to the wonderful Springfield Boys and Girls club and allows the club to remain open for use not only on weekdays, but also Saturdays.