Annual Festival of Trees opens at Bel Air Armory
Proceeds support Cancer Lifenet
Special from the Bargaineer
— The Chesapeake Cancer Alliance’s 11th Annual Festival of Trees, a fundraiser for Cancer Lifenet, kicks off at 5:30 p.m. on Friday at the Bel Air Armory.
The three-day festival begins Friday with a preview and continues into Saturday and Sunday. Tickets for the preview are $30 and allow guests to attend the festival all weekend long.
The festival features an assortment of decorated Christmas trees, wreaths and gingerbread houses created by local organizations and individuals to be sold by silent auction all weekend.
Gift boutiques, children’s crafts
and entertainment, a café and bake table and more are also available for families to enjoy.
Storytellers will tell holiday tales, too. Diane Lyn from 101.9 Lite FM will tell a story at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday and Kristy Breslin from WJZ will tell a story at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday. Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus will also be tapped to tell stories to the audience.
“It’s going to be fun,” said Sandy Guzewich, CCA’s president. “It’s going to be exciting.”
The newest addition to the festival is a children’s entertainment area, “which is going to be great fun,” Guzewich said.
“This year we have 18 vendors with new and interesting products to sell,” she said, adding that they have over 50 decorated trees, 14 decorated gingerbread houses and 45 wreaths.
The festival is a perfect activity for a family to enjoy the holiday season, Guzewich said. For her, enjoying the festival with her family is her favorite part.
“All of those things, with all my family, are a very important and a very heartwarming part for me,” she explained.
The Festival of Trees began 11 years ago as a volunteer’s dream to develop a funding stream for Cancer Lifenet, a popular program at University of Maryland’s Upper Chesapeake Health.
“We started the Festival of Trees in 2005,” Guzewich said. “What we were doing is, we wanted to raise money to start a cancer program at Upper Chesapeake.”
Back then, there was no Cancer Lifenet program, she added.
“We were fundraising on dream,” she said.
Guzewich’s dream has come a long way from the festival’s first a year, which raised around $10,000. She isn’t sure how many people attended that first festival, but she said the festival has grown by five times since then.
“It was smaller than it is now,” she said. “We certainly didn’t reach over 2,500 people.”
Volunteers play a crucial role in organizing the festival. In fact, it was a volunteer who first had the idea.
“That was one of our volunteers,” Guzewich said. “She had seen a festival trees on the eastern shore. She had experienced a festival of trees, liked it, enjoyed it and suggested we do it here in Bel Air.”
Volunteers are key to the festival’s longevity and success.
“We have had longevity because each year the volunteers for CCA want to do something bigger and better for the Festival of Trees,” Guzewich said. “It’s being initiated by the volunteers to expand and improve the festival of trees each year.”
The importance of the festival cannot be understated, said Jenn Snyder, UMUCH’s development associate.
Funded entirely through philanthropy, Cancer Lifenet offers services at no cost to cancer patients and their families in Harford County.
“It’s truly special because it’s in the 11th year since its inception,” Snyder said. “Since it started, it’s grown significantly. Last year, the event raised over $50,000 for cancer patients. It’s truly amazing.”
Cancer Lifenet’s operating costs are around $800,000, Snyder said.
A recent gala raised over $1 million.
“Because of the amount of staff we’re able to have because of the fundraising opportunities, so many more people with cancer are able to receive this care,” Snyder said.