Portland, OR. After 33 years of holiday fun, Providence Festival of Trees organizers give volunteers the credit for making the event such a success. This year over 100 amateur and professional designers produced the show at the Oregon Convention Center. Providence Festival of Trees has raised more than $15 million since its inception in 1983. Funds benefit programs and services that support the most vulnerable throughout the Portland metro area.
- This year’s festival, December 1st – 3rd, featured more than 100 decorated trees, mini-trees and holiday displays.
- There were more than 20,000 attendees. More than 600,000 people have attended the Festival since 1983.
- A 40-member volunteer steering committee works year round on the show.
Here’s a look at some of the stand-out trees:
Where it all began: History of Festival of Trees
December 1983 arrived in Portland, Ore. That meant Meier & Frank’s window displays at the flagship store in downtown had been unveiled, and Santa’s house was set up inside ready for children of all ages. Peacock Lane residents were working on their spectacular light display. The lower level of Memorial Coliseum joined the ranks of Portland holiday traditions and was abuzz with Christmas sights and sounds. Christmas was coming to the Rose City in a new, exciting way.
The inside concrete walls of the Memorial Coliseum disappeared and were replaced with the spirit of something magical. A dazzling array of beautifully decorated trees appeared in row after row of Christmas delight. The mayor and city officials, state representatives, the community, employees, doctors and nurses, and Providence families crowded into the first Providence Festival of Trees to admire the trees and help raise funds for patients in need.
Community leaders and philanthropists Charles and Caroline Swindells, together with Providence Portland Medical Foundation Board Chair Dr. Gary Rothenberger and his wife Marianne, chaired the first festival event. The goal was to raise $300,000 for cancer research and kidney dialysis.
Everyone at the Providence Portland Medical Center and its supporting foundation had pitched in to launch this new holiday tradition. Hospital groundskeepers tended the freshly cut trees, housekeeping cleaned the display areas, creative volunteers decorated each tree, and donors eagerly supported this new effort to expand Providence’s care for the poor and vulnerable in the community. Little did they know, this humble beginning would one day raise millions of dollars for those in need and would unite thousands of people under a Portland holiday tradition known as Providence Festival of Trees.
Year after year, the devotion to Festival of Trees grew, sponsors stepped up by the hundreds, and funds were raised for projects such as nurse navigators and counselors for cancer patients, medication assistance for those without resources, medical research, and much more. Over time, the Festival of Trees has gone from a walk-around auction in a simple space to a formal gala dinner, multi-media auction and multi-day public events benefitting an entire community. More than 20,000 visitors pass through the Festival of Trees each year as one of Portland’s most beloved holiday traditions.