Utah's Festival of Trees celebrates 42 years of all things Christmas

Money raised for Primary Children's Medical Center tops $30 million.
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Sandy • No matter how many years she has done it, Shauna Kerr never ceases to be amazed by the satisfaction that fills her with each rendition of the Festival of Trees.

"It's such a good feeling knowing we're putting on an event so dear to so many people," said Kerr, of Centerville, chairwoman again this year of the 42nd annual fundraiser for Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City.

"It's such a wonderful facility and there are so many people eager to give back to the hospital for the services they've received," she added. "Fortunately, I've had no children or grandchildren who have needed it. But I still feel we're lucky to have it in the community."

In 1970, that sentiment inspired a group of 15 women led by Betty Wells to organize a fundraising event built around all things Christmas. In the 42 years since then, the Festival of Trees has raised almost $31 million for the children's hospital, including $1.65 million last year.

The effort is now overseen by an 85-member volunteer board of women who work year-round on the four-day event, which runs Nov. 28 through Dec. 1, at South Towne Exposition Center in Sandy.

Assisting Kerr on the management team this year are Kathy Bess of South Jordan, Aimee Snow of Riverton, Marie Partridge of Kaysville and Stacey Telford of West Point.

Kerr initially got involved to help her mother, Doris Beck, one of the festival's early organizers. Now she's been on the executive board for 14 years, the last two as chairwoman.

"It's just such a worthy cause," she said. "Helping children, knowing that every penny raised by the festival helps children at Primary Children's."

The event's spirit really takes off on Monday, two days before South Towne's doors open to festivalgoers at 10 a.m.

"All the decorators come in," Kerr noted. "There's an amazing transformation of 220,000 square feet of cement into a wonderland of Christmas trees, wreaths, centerpieces and quality."

There will be about 800 trees in all, along with everything from handmade Christmas cards to scones made from dough donated by Terrels Country Bakery in Mount Pleasant, one of many vendors who contribute goods or services.

"All these people put their hearts and souls into the items they're donating," Kerr said. "It may be a tribute to someone they lost, or to someone who survived. Most of the trees have a story that goes along with them."

Organizers are intent on keeping ticket prices at affordable levels, she insisted, making it easier for families to attend and become enveloped in the spirit of the season. With so many children attending the festival annually, organizers have made sure there are plenty of kids' activities — from face-painting and a playhouse to opportunities to get pictures taken with Santa Claus.

For Primary Children's spokeswoman Robyn Austin, the ongoing popularity of the Festival of Trees demonstrates that the community's insistence on caring well for its children is thriving.

There's a side benefit too.

"Oh, and did I mention the sweet rolls? The calories have been removed," Austin said. "That is part of the magic of the Festival of Trees."


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At the door • $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $3 for children ages 2-11.

Discount tickets • (at most Zions Bank branches) $4 for adults, $2.50 for children.

Wednesday Family Day • $15 for up to six immediate family members. —

Festival of Trees

P The 42nd annual fundraiser for Primary Children's Medical Center will run Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., at South Towne Exposition Center, 9575 S. State St., Sandy.