Make us your home page
Instagram

Festival of Trees rings in holidays with Jingle Bell Jubilee

CLEARWATER — It took 44,300 lights, 623 feet of garland, 240 pounds of "snow," oodles of volunteers and eight days to transform the three-court gymnasium into a wintery wonderland.

Now, the sparkling charitable event that benefits individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, is ready for its closeup.

The 31st annual Festival of Trees, hosted by the Arc Tampa Bay Foundation (formerly UPARC), runs through Sunday at Clearwater's Long Center.

More than 400 decorators, from artists to business owners and community leaders, have poured their hearts, money and time into creatively decorating nearly 200 trees and wreaths, all available for purchase.

This year, look for an abundance of jingle bells.

"Our theme is Jingle Bell Jubilee," said Madison Orr Hauenstein, the foundation's executive director. "The word 'jubilee' is often used to denote a special anniversary and so this is a nod to the city of Clearwater's centennial celebration."

Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos said the festival is a tradition for many who want to celebrate the advent of the holiday season with family and friends.

"New York City has the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade; we have the Festival of Trees," he said.

Organizers have dusted off the trophy and brought back the Mayors' Challenge, a special category of decorated trees. Participating cities and towns include Clearwater, Dunedin, Belleair, Oldsmar and Belleair Bluffs.

Debb Pauley, Oldsmar's marketing professional, said Mayor Doug Bevis selected a railroad-themed tree called the Mayor's Magical Express. The story behind the decision is that railroad giant CSX Corp. is considering selling existing tracks that could be used for commuter trains crisscrossing between Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. It would be a major boon for Oldsmar because of its central location.

More than $100,000 has been raised for the Arc Tampa Bay Foundation in sponsorships alone. That includes a check for $20,000 from top sponsor AmeriLife, an insurance group providing the feature tree, which will be auctioned off during tonight's Premier Night Gala. All other trees are priced in advance.

The AmeriLife tree is adorned with reindeer and other fauna, both naughty and nice. Some are diving into tubs of frosting, while others are raiding Santa's bag of toys or getting tangled up in Christmas lights.

In addition to holiday tree shopping, tonight's gala, which runs from 7 to 11, features an array of food offerings from upscale restaurants as well as music and dancing.

There's a multitude of donated items to bid on including smart phones and a boat ride/fishing/dinner experience featuring your catch of the day.

Gala tickets are available for $75 per person and available at the door.

Santa arrives Saturday at 10 a.m. This time he will be surrounded not by elves but by four Holiday Belles. Afterward, children can enjoy milk and cookies with Saint Nick, have their faces painted and draw on a chalkboard gingerbread house.

"The magic of the Festival of Trees is that is truly a community project that couldn't happen without the help of so many volunteers who set it up, decorate, help during the event, and provide sponsorships," Hauenstein said.

>>If you go

Festival of Trees

The 31st annual Festival of Trees, hosted by the Arc Tampa Bay Foundation

Where: Clearwater's Long Center, 1501 N Belcher Road

When: Today from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Admission: $5, free for children 10 and under

Premiere Night Gala: Today, from 7 to 11 p.m. Tickets are $75 each and available at the door.

Information: thearctb

foundation.org or (727) 797-8712

Festival of Trees rings in holidays with Jingle Bell Jubilee 11/16/15 [Last modified: Thursday, November 19, 2015 5:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Prep meals for a week with tacos, pork tenderloin and rosemary chicken

    Cooking

    Some see a resemblance to Japan's popular bento boxes. Some just call it meal prepping. And some prefer to think of it as bringing lunch to work in Tupperware containers.

    For simple meal prep, you can’t go wrong with this classic: ground beef tacos, black beans and homemade Spanish rice.
  2. 'Swag Surfin' producer: 'It's very weird… they're still playing the song' eight years later

    Music & Concerts

    TAMPA

    Kevin Erondu doesn't often go to night clubs. Yet, across America, he drives people to the dance floor. He's 31 years old, but he still has the ear of college students, and while he's no pro athlete, they leap to their feet when he joins them in the gym.

    Originally from Dade City, music producer Kevin Erondu, 31, rose to prominence after creating the beat to Swag Surfin’, a 2009 club hit that still inspires viral videos today.
  3. 5 things to do under $5: Type artists, shuffleboard, toy train show, Wildflower Walk

    Events

    1 Letterheads Typefest: The muralists who run Illsol Space, a gallery in Tampa Heights, said their respect for handmade fonts and sign painting techniques moved them to curate this exhibit featuring type-based muralists, hand-style lettering designers, sign painters, letterpress studios and type designers. …

    Colm O’Connor, a Dublin sign writer, is among the 22 artists featured in the Letterheads Typefest exhibit at the Illsol Space gallery.
  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Aug. 23

    Events

    The Art of the Brick: An elaborate display of more than 100 pieces of Lego artwork including the life sized sculpture of a man ripping open his chest, a 20-foot-long T. rex skeleton, a giant skull and replicas of famous works including Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night and Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona …

    Nathan Sawaya with a sculpture from his The Art of the Brick exhibition coming to Tampa June 23- Sept. 4. It will be open for free Wednesdays through Sundays,  from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 802 E Whiting Street, Tampa. No tickets are required.[Courtesy  of the Art of the Brick]
  5. I give you a fish, you give me back my man

    Blogs

    The B-52s are a band with such a distinct visual look that you could tell it was them with just a glimpse of a picture. But was it always beehives and bright clothes for the hipsters from Athens? You can find the different looks of the B-52s in their video for the irresistible Give Me Back My Man.