HELENA — As Intermountain's 'Festival of Trees' enters its 35th year, the event will be returning to its full capacity for the first time since 2019. In recent years, Intermountain provided iterations of the long-standing event, where the public could still be involved, but Intermountain's Special Events Director, Beth Wheeler, said this year has the potential to be record-breaking.
"The community was still generous, and they still participated, but of course, it was on a scaled-back capacity. So, this is our first year of being fully back, our performers are back in the auditorium, we've got performances all day long, Saturday and Sunday," said Wheeler as volunteers set up displays all around the Helena Civic Center. "The amount of public that has donated small trees and wreaths is through the roof. We're almost at a record year. We have over 100 small trees upstairs on silent auction, and so many people involved and excited to be back in the ballroom together."
In some cases, volunteers have been donating their time and energy to this festival for several years, or even decades, because they believe in Intermountain's mission to provide mental and behavioral healthcare to children and families all across Montana.
"I really believe in the mission of Intermountain. Helping the kids and the families that Intermountain serves is really precious to my heart," said Emily Hankins. "I was a teacher for over 15 years and I see the good that it does in the community."
This year's theme is 'Christmas Bells and Seashells' and while there will be plenty of big-ticket items to bid on during the Festival of Trees, there are plenty of smaller donations that can be made to help Intermountain reach its goals.
"Online they can watch all week long, the silent auction items from upstairs, that's certainly a way. We also have a giving tree on the ballroom floor and it is full of tags, of wishes of the kids and the staff of Intermountain. Things that are needed to run the programs and the kids' wishes, also. Those go all the way down to $5 or $10, and every dollar that comes to us goes back to the kids and it helps meet their needs on any level," said Wheeler.
This year, the Festival of Trees begins on Wednesday, Nov. 30 with Tea in the Trees and will wrap up on Sunday, Dec. 4 with Family Fun Days.