The whole family can enjoy Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Festival of Trees from the comfort of their home this Thanksgiving weekend. (Courtesy of KennedyKreiger.org)

By Michelle Richardson
Special to the AFRO

“The festival is virtual but the magic is still real.” 

‘Tis the season! and for Marylanders that means Kennedy Krieger “Festival of Trees’ is finally here! 

Kennedy Krieger Institute’s first Festival of Trees was on Dec. 8, 1990, at Festival Hall in the Downtown Baltimore Convention Center. This first festival featured an opening ceremony, celebrity lunch, over 100 decorated trees, wreaths, and table-top displays, a full-size antique carousel; shopping vendors; holiday entertainment; children’s activities; and of course, Santa. More than 25,000 people attended this eight day winter wonderland, raising nearly $400,000 for the Institute.

For over 30 years, Maryland residents have convened to marvel at the smorgasbord of trees that are heavily decorated and themed ranging from Christmas to cartoon characters. This year, however, residents can enjoy the three day festival from the comfort of their own home. 

Due to the pandemic, the Kennedy Krieger Institute went virtual for the Festival of Trees, making it accessible for all families to enjoy.

“The festivities you love will be online.Tree and wreath sales, gift boutiques, games, auction and raffle will happen 24 hours a day. Plus, 

family entertainment each day. All to support the kids of Kennedy Krieger Institute,” according to the press release. 

Due to the event being virtual, things will look a little different than what attendees are used to. 

“This event is going to kick some of the traditions we know and love, where we bring together our designers to decorate our trees,” Michelle Meuller, the director of special events at the institute, said.

The institute implemented its own social distance restrictions in order to keep everyone safe. There were assigned times and expanded tree spacing that allowed tree-designers to create the trees to be sold online at the Cow Palace at the Timonium Fairgrounds. 

Only designers will be allowed on-site, with limited staff.

“The safety of our dedicated Festival-goers, designers, patients, sponsors, volunteers and staff will always be our top priority,” said Dr. Brad Schlaggar, president and CEO of Kennedy Krieger Institute.

The festival is held Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 27-29 and normally draws around 50,000 attendees. 

“We are thrilled to be bringing the Festival of Trees to your homes this November and we have a lot of new and exciting things in store. And, this year, no matter where you live, you can participate in the magic of the festival!” stated Schlaggar. 

Any proceeds and donations collected from the event goes toward supporting patients and families receiving services from the institute.

Meuller added the institute is depending on the money raised through the event more than ever to cover programs that don’t get funding from the government or insurance. 

“Everyone needs a sense of normalcy right now in a world that’s anything but normal, so we’re trying to provide that for everyone, just bringing a little taste of festival magic right to people’s homes,” Meuller said. 

For more information about the Festival of Trees, visit www.festivaloftrees.kennedykreiger.org.