The awaited return of Festival of Trees

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Harper Clark

Festival of Trees 2021 runs from Nov 20-28.

Harper Clark, Student Life Editor

The Quad Cities area has been anxiously awaiting the return of the beloved community tradition of Festival of Trees. After its devastating cancellation in 2020, Festival of Trees is making its grand return from Nov. 20-28.

Festival of Trees is a 10 day holiday celebration featuring over 150 designer displays, special events, fun attractions and the largest helium balloon parade in the Midwest. 

It is an event that brings together over 30,000 people every year to the RiverCenter throughout the duration of the festival. In 2019, the festival reached its greatest number of attendees with over 35,000 people gathering to celebrate. Thousands more chose to attend the Holiday Parade, and even more watch the parade live on KWQC.

The Executive Director of Quad City Arts, Kevin Maynard, is one of many who is thrilled by the return of the festivities. 

“Festival of Trees is the kick-off to the holiday season here in the Quad Cities, but it goes much deeper. Festival of Trees is also the biggest fundraiser for Quad City Arts, and it helps support our programs,” Maynard elaborated.

Some of the programs that are supported by the money raised from Festival of Trees are the Visiting Artist Series, Metro Arts Youth Apprenticeship Program, Public Sculpture, Chalk Art Fest and many others. More of these programs can be found on the Quad City Arts website.

After already having to deal with the damage done by the pandemic, businesses were hit even harder with the absence of Festival of Trees.

Maynard explained, “In addition to supporting Quad City Arts, it also has a big economic impact within our community as our visitors don’t just visit the RiverCenter they also visit other shops, eat at restaurants, buy gas, some stay overnight, etc. All in, Festival of Trees has an overall economic impact of over $1.3 Million.”

This 10 day festival brings together thousands of people who support local businesses throughout the duration of the event. Many businesses count on these community members and tourists to spark their holiday sales for the season. Without these patrons, the amount of sales during this time decreased tremendously.

Not only did the cancellation of last year’s festival create a negative impact on local businesses, but the sense of community in the area faltered as well.

In response to the cancellation of last year’s event, Maynard said, “We had a lot of phone calls, emails, social media messages about how they would miss the event and about how it is a family tradition.” 

The absence of the festival last year left a void in the sense of place and community around the Quad Cities. For many years, this has been a beloved tradition that is a staple in families around the area. 

With the return of Festival of Trees, there are some COVID precautions: volunteers will be wearing masks and visitors are encouraged to wear them as well. Also, there will be increased cleaning from the RiverCenter team.

Sophomore Natalie Weyrick has performed at Festival of Trees with her dance studio for the past few years. Just like many, she was very disappointed at the absence of the festival. “Performing at Festival of Trees is one of the highlights of the holiday season. I am so thankful it is back on this year,” Weyrick enthusiastically explained.

The void that was left after the cancellation of last year’s festival will soon again be filled with holiday cheer.