* What: Festival of Trees.
* When: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30; noon-6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1.
* Where: Chattanooga Convention Center, Exhibit Hall A, 1100 Carter St.
* Admission: $12 adults, $8 children in advance online; $15 adults, $10 children at the door.
* Website: www.festivaloftreeschatt.org.
Santa will pose for free photos (bring your camera) from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday. He'll be accompanied by Emma the Elf.
A new fundraiser is launching this weekend that organizers hope will become a holiday tradition for families as well as the sponsoring nonprofit, Bethany Christian Services.
Festival of Trees will feature 30 Christmas trees decorated for visitors' enjoyment, transforming Exhibit Hall A in the Chattanooga Convention Center with Christmas cheer. The family event will include photo-ops with Santa, musical performances and holiday entertaining workshops on wreath making, flower arranging, table setting and festive wrapping. In Gingerbread Village, children can decorate cookies, make "reindeer food" or turn their handprint into a reindeer head.
The event was the idea of Bethany's board chairwoman, Suzanne Morris.
"I saw this in Atlanta many years ago, and I just kept thinking Chattanooga needed something like this," says Morris. "We were looking for an event to engage the public rather than a small group of donors, and now we can do both by bringing this activity to the city to kick off the Christmas season."
A diverse group of nonprofits, decorators and businesses have volunteered their creative talent to design a tree.
Morris says these include Junior League of Chattanooga, Optimist Club, a Girl Scout troop, Ashley Ford Interiors, Memorial Hospital and Covenant Flowers from Dalton, Ga. Also M&M Industries, First Things First, Atlas Bolt & Supply, Fitness Together, Learning Express Toys and several individuals Morris described as friends of Bethany.
Visitors can vote for their favorite tree, she says.
"Each tree will have a pail in front for people to drop in change, and the tree that raises the most money will be the winner. The top five trees will receive recognition. So in addition to general admission, each tree is raising money," explains Morris.
All proceeds will benefit the Safe Families for Children program of Bethany Christian Services.
"Safe Families for Children helps parents experiencing a temporary crisis, where they can arrange for their children to stay with a Christian family until the crisis has passed," says Deborah Cordell, Bethany Christian Services' office manager. The new program launches at the first of next year.
Contact Susan Pierce at firstname.lastname@example.org