If all forests were filled with decked-out beauties like those on display at the Festival of Trees, it'd be a lot harder to justify cutting them down and carting them home for the holidays.

This weekend marks the return of the festival, a local take on a charitable event that has deep roots in cities all over the country, including regionally in Knoxville, Birmingham and Atlanta.

When she saw Atlanta's festival in 2012, festival coordinator Suzanne Morris says she decided its catchall approach to holiday activities was just what Chattanooga needed.

If you go

> What: Second annual Festival of Trees celebration.

> When: Noon-6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6, noon-5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 7.

> Where: Chattanooga Convention Center, 1150 Carter St.

> Admission: $12 adults, $8 ages 1-12 if purchased at the door; $10 adults, $5 children if purchased in advance online (includes convenience fees).

> Phone: 423-622-7360.

> Website: www.festival


Saturday, Dec. 6

> Noon. Doors open / opening ceremony

> 12:10 p.m. Nicole Graham and Johnathon Campbell of Lee University

> 1 p.m. Silver Slipper Dance

> 1:30 p.m. Santa arrives

> 1:35 p.m. Kimi Carter (singer/songwriter)

> 2 p.m. Heritage Middle School Chorus

> 3 p.m. Chattanooga Christian School Chorus

> 3:30 p.m. Jamie Harris (story time and children's sing along)

> 4 p.m. Southern Sparkle Dance Academy

> 5 p.m. Southern Sparkle Dance Academy

> 5:30 p.m. Santa leaves

> 6 p.m. Doors close

Sunday, Dec. 7

> Noon. Doors open

> 12:15 p.m. Hannah Shiver (11-year-old singer)

> 1 p.m. Santa arrives

> 1 p.m. Jamie Harris storytime and children's sing-along

> 1:30 p.m. Fab 4 (quartet)

> 2 p.m. Ballet Tennessee

> 2:30 p.m. Closed Door Entertainment

> 3 p.m. Closed Door Entertainment

> 3:30 p.m. Closed Door Entertainment

> 4 p.m. Melinda Chaney (singer)

> 4 p.m. Santa leaves

> 5 p.m. Doors close

"I just thought it was a fun family event that everyone could come to and find something for them to do," explains Morris, who also serves as the chairperson for local nonprofit Bethany Christian Services. Bethany's alternative foster care program, Safe Families for Children, will receive funding from the festival.

Last year, about 1,000 people attended the event and raised about $25,000. This year, the hope is to double the attendance and raise at least $30,000, Morris says.

"When you're starting anything new, you have to test the waters the first year and grow it from there, but we were fortunate that we made some money and established the event," she says. "Many people who came last year have visited similar events in other cities. They were happy that Chattanooga now has a Festival of Trees."

During the festival, guests will be able to walk through a "forest" in the Chattanooga Convention Center made up of artificial Christmas trees that have been lavishly decorated by partner organizations, individuals and families. At the center of the room, parents can take photos of their children with Santa at a grand central tree.

In addition to the spruced-up spruces and fancy firs, guests will be able to shop at more than 20 vendors, decorate cookies, have their faces painted and attend demonstrations and workshops by experts covering topics such as cooking, flower arranging and gift wrapping. Younger guests also can enjoy a slew of activities in the Gingerbread Village and may encounter special guests such as Cinderella or Anna and Elsa from "Frozen."

The hope is to offer Chattanoogans a one-stop shop holiday outing that offers something for everyone, Morris says.

"I felt like Chattanooga was missing a signature event like this that could involve the whole family," she says. "We tried to put everything in one place where people could come and do a lot of activities as opposed to going to a lot of specialty events."

Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfree or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.


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