Holiday fun continues this week as the third annual Festival of Trees benefitting the United Way gets under way with food, decorations and an early visit from Santa.
Jennifer Gregory, chair of the 2010 Festival of Trees event, said expectations are high for an outstanding event.
“This year, we have an extremely talented group of decorators who I know will create stunning trees for this Christmas season,” Gregory said. “And from what I’ve heard, the gifts under the trees are going to be outstanding.”
The event will be held Tuesday through Thursday and host a special “Cookies with Sant”a event on Saturday at the Palmeiro Center on the Mississippi State University campus.
Tuesday through Thursday, the Festival of Trees will be open for public viewing from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m.
The entry fee will be $5 per person and must be paid at the door.
At 7 p.m. Tuesday, the black-tie optional Holiday Party and Auction will be held, giving ticket holders the opportunity bid on the decorator Christmas trees and Gingerbread House items.
“Enjoy the magic of Christmas at the Holiday Party and Auction,” Gregory said.
“Be the first to see and/or bid on the beautifully decorated Christmas trees, handmade Gingerbread houses, and silent auction items.”
Tickets for the Holiday Party and Auction will be $40 per person or $80 per couple. A maximum of 250 tickets will be sold for this event. Tables of 10 may be reserved for $400. All tickets must be purchased in advance at the Greater Starkville Development Partnership Office, 200 East Main Street, Starkville; or the United Way Office, 1016G Louisville Street, Starkville, or e-mail at email@example.com  to reserve tickets.
No tickets will be sold at the door. Gregory said the Holiday Party and Auction will feature live music, eclectic local food, beverages, live auction, and the finale of the silent auction.
“Elaborately decorated Christmas trees, gingerbread homes, silent auction items, and more will be sold to the highest bidders at this authentic Christmas event,” Gregory said.
Wenesday and Thursday will allow visitors to view the trees and gingerbread houses, garnering ideas for their own special holiday magic.
Gregory said this year, more of a focus was placed on recruiting bakers and caterers to create the gingerbread houses, and they feel like that effort will really pay off.
“Last year, some of the favorites included a gingerbread house in the shape of the Humphrey Coliseum, several modeled after churches with stained glass windows, and more,” Gregory said. “This year, festival-goers will be in for a real treat because in addition to the gingerbread houses, there will be an elaborate train display to complete the village!”
On Thursday night, Greater Starkville Development Partnership’s Business After Hours event will be held at the Festival of Trees.
The event will take a break on Friday to get ready for Santa to visit on Saturday.
The Cookies with Santa event will be held Nov. 13 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Tickets will be $10 per child, with a maximum of 200 tickets to be sold.
Tickets must be purchased in advance at the Greater Starkville Development Partnership Office, 200 East Main Street, Starkville; or the United Way Office, 1016G Louisville Street, Starkville, or e-mail festivaloftrees.starkville@gmail com to reserve tickets. No tickets will be sold at the door. Gregory said tickets price includes time with Santa. Parents are encouraged to bring their cameras to take photos. Children will also enjoy homemade cookies, face painting, and a special craft that the elves will help children make!
The Festival of Trees is put on solely by a committee of volunteers that work tirelessly throughout the year.
“We also recruit groups to help us with set-up and clean-up and to work specific events, and this year, we’re excited about working with the Starkville High School Interact Club,” Gregory said. “If there are other groups that are interested in volunteering, we’d love to talk with them!”
All of the proceeds for the Festival of Trees goes to the United Way of North Central Mississippi.
Gregory said festival-goers and contributors have a chance to see their dollars really benefit this area through the United Way agencies such as Habitat for Humanity, the Humane Society, the Brickfire Project and many others.
Last year, the event netted $33,000 for the United Way, and Gregory said this year, the group hopes to match and exceed last year’s goals.
For more information, contact Festival of Trees chairman Jennifer Gregory at firstname.lastname@example.org  or 323-3322, or visit http://www.festivaloftreesstarkville.com .