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Launched in 2014 by journalist Sean Baker, Med City Beat is an independent news source covering government, business and culture in Rochester, Minnesota.

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Now in its 33rd year, the Festival of Trees continues to reach new heights

Now in its 33rd year, the Festival of Trees continues to reach new heights

This Thanksgiving weekend will mark 33 years for what has become a Rochester tradition, the Festival of Trees – A Celebration of Giving.

The annual festival, put on by the Hiawatha Homes Foundation, features more than a hundred trees hand-decorated by community volunteers. Since the inaugural event in 1986, the Festival of Trees has raised more than $3.5 million for Hiawatha Homes, a nonprofit working to provide quality support services to people with disabilities at home and in their community.

Funds raised from this year’s festival will help Hiawatha Homes build and maintain homes, expand support programs, and invest in its future.

“We make an impact by serving 120 individuals through residential and community-based services,” says Crystal Landherr, Director of Development and Communications for the Hiawatha Homes Foundation. “Most of all, we make an impact by serving each person and his or her individual dreams, goals, and needs.”

Now in its 33rd year, the Festival of Trees continues to reach new heights — with more holiday-themed displays and events than ever before. This year’s calendar includes a full lineup of musicians and performers, along with a dance party for people with disabilities and their families (Friday night), a children’s carnival with crafts and games (Saturday), and the chance to watch a holiday movie in the Christmas tree forest (Saturday night).

Crystal says the community deserves credit for the ongoing success of the Festival of Trees fundraiser, which is expected to draw thousands of visitors to the Mayo Civic Center this Friday through Sunday.

There’s a dedicated group of tree designers, who produce marveling displays of holiday spirit; a planning committee that begins its work months ahead of the event; a loyal group of local businesses that provide financial and in-kind support; and an army of 500 volunteers who help out the week of the event.

“It truly is a community event for a great cause,” says Crystal. “When the Festival of Trees began, supporters thought it would take place for five years or less. It amazes us how many people are still involved that were a part of the event in the early years.”

Darren Groteboer is among the individuals who have stepped up to support Hiawatha Homes over the years. He first became involved with the festival in 1993 by volunteering to build play houses that were later sold at auction.

“It was a lot of fun watching the process of building one of these tree houses from start to finish,” says Darren, “but I couldn’t have even imagined the amount of money they would bring in for Hiawatha Homes.”

Because of their commitment to helping people better their lives, Darren decided to serve on Hiawatha’s board and continues to stay involved by sponsoring the festival through his business, Carpet One of Rochester.

“Hiawatha Homes has, and continues to, afford many individuals the opportunity to live as independently as possible,” says Darren.

General Admission

Friday & Saturday, November 23-24 – 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Sunday, November 25 – 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Admission Prices

Adults – $6

Tour groups & seniors – $5

Children 2-12 – $4

Babies in arms – Free

Published in partnership with Carpet One of Rochester

RST is the 'key that unlocks Rochester'

RST is the 'key that unlocks Rochester'