Providence tree festival — it's all about giving

With an eye to soothing the suffering of critically ill people in the valley, the 21st annual Providence Festival of Trees will draw 20,000 people to dance, dine, taste wines and beers, bid on auctions, have kids visit with Santa and — the main event — get bedazzled by 36 Christmas trees, all gaily decorated with themes that make it "an amazing kickoff to the holiday season."

"It's the kickoff for people who want to come and be embraced by all the richness and joy of the holidays in our community," says Jodi Barnard, executive director of Providence Community Health Foundation.

Stretching from Wednesday, Nov. 28, to Sunday, Dec. 2, at the Medford Armory, 1701 S. Pacific Highway, the festival this year will benefit the Providence Palliative Care Program, which seeks to improve the quality of life of patients and families facing a serious or life-threatening illness, says Michael Christensen, a palliative care nurse practitioner who joined Providence from Stanford University Medical Center.

"It's absolutely vital to our efforts, and we really need these funds to do it, especially with everything so tight these days," says Christensen.

Yule trees, all artificial for safety and reuse year after year, are decorated by a range of local businesses, interior designers, florists, artists and groups of friends.

They go from table-top trees to big ones, and some will be auctioned, says attorney and tree designer Amanda Thorpe.

There's an air of secrecy about the trees, which can take enormous amounts of time and money to design and execute, says Thorpe. A few themes have "leaked" — one bedecked with children's baking dreams and another from the Disney movie "Lorax," a protector of the environment. They will all be displayed in a darkened and decorated great hall to give the aura of stepping into another festive world.

"The trees are the important part of the festival, and it wouldn't be possible without all the creative people bringing new ideas and themes," says Barnard. Some of the designers have been participating for a dozen years or more.

The opening-night gala, dinner and auction will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 28. Tickets, which cost $150 per person, can be reserved by calling 541-732-6768.

The holiday party, from 6 to 10 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 29, will feature The Colonel Mustard Band and "Tastes of the Town," featuring area restaurants, caterers, wineries and brewers.

Tickets cost $50 and can be purchased at the door or in advance by calling 541-732-5193. A black tie is optional.

"It's such a holiday tradition in the valley. Everyone who comes out is in awe of the trees," says Heather Crow, spokeswoman for Providence Medford Medical Center. "To everyone, it's a winter wonderland. It's more trees than you will see in the rest of the holiday season, a chance to see every design you can imagine and get ideas for your own."

Some of the trees will be auctioned with accessories, including a full living-room set with sofa, coffee table, rug, DVD player and iPad, adds Crow. You also can take care of a lot of holiday shopping, she notes, with toys, children's books, wines, home decor items and mantel decorations available at The Holiday Store, which will be open during all hours of public viewing.

The trees will be available for public display from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 30, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 2. The cost is $5 for adults and $3 for people older than 59 or younger than 13.

Santa Claus will welcome children during all hours of public viewing, and a photo with Santa will be available for $5. There is no charge to take pictures with your own camera.

All events are at the Medford Armory, 1701 S. Pacific Highway. For information, see

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at

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