Preview: Festival of Trees

Manhattan Town Center mall (Archive photo by Parker Robb | The Collegian)

While it may seem early for holiday celebrations, the Flint Hills Volunteer Center is already gearing up for Festival of Trees. Volunteers, businesses and sponsors put up holiday displays at the Manhattan Town Center mall until Nov. 18 when a silent auction closes the event.

Lori Bishop, Flint Hills Volunteer Center executive director, said the event has been put on for nearly 20 years.

“It is our major fundraiser for the year,” Bishop said. “The proceeds of this benefits all of our core programs.”

Some of these core programs include the Flint Hills Volunteer Center’s suicide prevention program, Connecting Students to Communities program and Neighbor 2 Neighbor program.

The holiday displays come from a variety of sources, including sponsors of the event, Bishop said. Community members have the opportunity to vote on their favorite display until Nov. 17.

“At the mall, we have a kiosk by the fountain and that has a ballot box,” Bishop said. “People can stroll through the mall and vote for their favorite. You can go to our Facebook page, Flint Hills Volunteer Center, and vote for your favorite. We do a combination of online and in-person voting and then the winner will receive a prize the night of the auction.”

Not only can mall-goers vote on displays, they can also participate in activities available to them.

“We’ll have letters to Santa. I also understand that those letters will be sent directly to the North Pole and Santa will respond to the letters,” Bishop said. “It’s kind of a way to engage people to come down and see the displays, vote for your favorite, write your letter to Santa and go on a scavenger hunt. It’s a pretty cool kickoff to the holiday season.”

Annie Wehling, senior in human development and family sciences, said this is the first year she’s heard about the event and hopes to attend.

“I think it sounds really fun,” Wehling said. “If I can get a group together — this is my senior year, so I think it’d be fun to try something new with friends.”

The event closes with a silent auction in the Manhattan Town Center mall on Nov. 18. Bishop said Flint Hills Volunteer Center has plenty of activities in store.

“It’s always been a gala, and last year for the first time we scaled it back,” Bishop said. “Last year we offered a prize for the ugliest Christmas sweater. We’re doing that all again this year. We have some amazing trees and wreaths and mantles. We have a tablescape; we have really really awesome silent auction items — probably the best we’ve had. We’re super excited.”

Bishop said her favorite part about Festival of Trees is getting to see the community come together, laugh, relax and have a good time, all while benefiting an amazing organization.

Tickets for the auction portion of the event cost $55 per person. More information about Festival of Trees can be found on the Flint Hills Volunteer Center’s website.