TIMONIUM, Md. – The “Festival of Trees,” held annually at the Maryland State Fairgrounds and hosted by the Kennedy Krieger Institute, is a holiday tradition for many Marylanders.
Lainy LeBow-Sachs, the vice president of external relations at Kennedy Krieger Institute, said attending the Festival of Trees is a excellent way to kickoff the holiday season. The three-day event held during Thanksgiving weekend is touted as “the East Coast’s largest holiday-themed festival.”
According to LeBow-Sachs, every year the 158,400 square foot “Cow Palace” arena and event center at the Maryland State Fairgrounds is transformed into a winter wonderland with the help of volunteers.
“If Santa had a theme park, this would be it,” LeBow- Sachs said.
The Festival of Trees features more than 700 unique trees, wreaths and gingerbread houses designed and donated by local artists, corporations and schools. Visitors can purchase one of these festive decorations to take home.
“All of the trees are phenomenal,” LeBow- Sachs said. “People are so imaginative and spend so much time creating these trees.”
Stacey Bollinger, a communications specialist with the Kennedy Krieger Institute, said tree themes vary every year. Last year, “Star Wars,” “Frozen” and Minions from the animated movie “Despicable Me” were popular themes.
The event includes a VISA gift card raffle and a silent auction with more than a hundred items including autographed sports memorabilia, theater tickets, vacation packages, spas and restaurants.
According to Bollinger, many attendees begin their holiday shopping during the Festival of Trees. The event includes more than 100 boutiques with items ranging from homemade food, jewelry, scarfs, artwork, and sports-themed gifts.
Visitors can take break from shopping by grabbing a bite to eat in the food court and watching live entertainment on the main stage. Performers range from magicians and comedians to dancers and musicians.
Other highlights include SantaLand, an indoor carnival-style experience for children. This attraction includes visits with Santa, a mini petting zoo, crafts, games, train rides and a remote controlled race track.
Children who need a break from the festivities can retreat to the “calming area,” located near SantaLand, Bollinger said.
A family tradition
Mary Lou Rodriguez, the wife of an Army retiree, said her family has attended the Festival of the Trees for the past five years.
“We usually go on the Friday after Thanksgiving, as an alternative Black Friday shopping,” she said. “There is something for everybody.”
Rodriguez said she enjoys viewing the gingerbread houses decorated by local television personalities in “Gingerbread Town.”
“They are very interesting ,” she said. “Some are very elaborate, some are basic.”
About the Festival of Trees
This year marks the 27th annual Festival of Trees. Last year, S1.2 million was raised for the Kennedy Kreiger Institute, and nearly 55,000 people attended.
“It grows every year,” LeBow-Sachs said.
According to the Festival of Trees website, money raised during the three-day event benefits thousands of children and families who receive treatment and services at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore.
The Festival of Trees is located at 2200 York Road, Timonium, Maryland 21093. The event is held Nov.25 and Nov. 26 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Nov. 27 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults; $10 for seniors 65 and older; $7 for children 5-12. Children under 4 are free. For more information visit http://festivaloftrees.kennedykrieger.org/.