The Festival of Trees in Gatlinburg TN kicks off the holiday season over Thanksgiving week with the sparkle and glow of beautifully decorated Christmas trees. The festival is hosted by Smoky Mountain Area Rescue Ministries whose mission is to provide assistance to people in the area who need help as well as the city of Gatlinburg, the Gatlinburg Department of Tourism, and the Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce.
The Festival of Trees is one of the primary fund raising events for SMARM. Individuals or businesses sign up to sponsor a Christmas tree that they then decorate or pay to decorate and place on display. The pride that the tree sponsors take insures that the trees are beautifully and ornately decorated to match the glory and the wonder of the season they usher in. For the 2011 festival nearly 80 trees were sponsored and decorated. The trees are laid out so that it can feel as though you are wandering through an enchanted forest.
The Festival of Trees opens on the Tuesday of Thanksgiving week every year. Each year SMARM hosts the Grace Luncheon with food and entertainment. The Gatlinburg-Pittman High School is always a featured performance as well as other performers from Tunes and Tales. After the lunch, participants are escorted by a bagpiper into the display area and the festival is underway.
Each year, a popular part of the Festival of Trees is the Gingerbread contest. The Gingerbread House contest has a number of entry categories from Professional to amateur adult and several categories for young people. Judging for the contest is held on Tuesday Night at the Family & Friends/Business After Hours reception which runs from 5 to 9 pm. In addition to the Gingerbread House Contest there is a Best Christmas Sweater Contest. Categories are the Best Ever Christmas Fashion Sweater, The Best Ever Homemade Christmas Sweater, The Best Ever Worst Christmas Sweater, and the Best Ever Overall Christmas Sweater. Dig out your prize winning Christmas Sweater and join in the fun. Bring the children along for a visit and pictures with Santa.
If you can’t make it to the Tuesday opening, don’t worry, the Festival of Trees runs through Saturday. The festival offers many items for sale including decorations, gift baskets and the trees themselves. There will be a silent action running through the sale with donated items to bid on. The items represent the best of the Gatlinburg area and are high quality. Santa returns to the festival for pictures and visits with the kiddos on Friday and Saturday from 2 to 5 pm.
One of the most popular features of the Festival of Trees is the SMARM card booth. This booth is open throughout the festival. Bring an electronic version of your card list, select a card to send, and you can arrange to have your cards completed and mailed via the post office to all your card recipients. In addition, browse the catalog and select a lovely gift to accompany your card for the special people on your list. Save yourself time and benefit the Smoky Mountain Area Rescue Mission at the same time.
The Smoky Mountain Festival of Trees is a popular kick off to Gatlinburg’s holiday season. It runs each Thanksgiving Week from Tuesday through Saturday and is currently held at the Mills Conference Center.
Author Mike Olsen