EASTON – One of the Eastern Shore’s most well-known charity events has a new leader.
Friends of Hospice was formed in 1984 and began hosting the Festival of Trees in 1986 to raise money for the Talbot Hospice Foundation. To date, more than $3.7 million has been raised by the Festival of Trees to assist with Talbot Hospice’s operating budget.
The 38th annual event will take place in Easton Nov. 25-28. Events include the Festival of Trees, which is held in the Tidewater Inn, as well as Carols by Candlelight, the Santa 5K Fun Run, a poinsettia sale, Santa’s Workshop and a Holiday House Tour. This year’s theme is “Caroling, Caroling Through the Town,” with a nod to the Victorian era.
This year’s chairman has deep ties to the fundraiser. Karla Wieland-Cherry has been involved since 1987 when she was home from college during Thanksgiving break.
Over the years, Ms. Wieland-Cherry was a fashion show model, a raffle ticket salesman and a tree decorator. Wherever there was a need for a volunteer, she stepped in to help.
Before too many years passed, Ms. Wieland-Cherry became a hospice nurse. She said, “I was one of the first nurses to provide patient care in the newly built Talbot Hospice House in 1998.”
Attending the Festival of Trees then became an annual tradition with her own family. She said, “We all participated in some fashion ... including the fashion shows. My daughter sang for years with my husband on piano. My son helped me with my Tabletop Trees chairman work. And now, this year, I am honored to be chairman for the Festival of Trees.”
Ms. Wieland-Cherry admits that it's a lot of work for the entire Festival of Trees committee but that it's always rewarding to see the final touches come into focus. She said, “My goal this year is to reach further out into the community to people and groups who are unfamiliar with the Festival of Trees and invite them to come out and see the gorgeous trees and start the holiday season off with a song in their hearts with our theme, ‘Caroling, Caroling Through the Town.’ We can't thank the community and businesses enough for their support financially and the volunteer work that takes a year to plan and put together.”
In sync with this year’s Victorian theme, the Preview Gala will return to a more formal affair Nov. 24 to begin the festival. From 6 to 8 p.m., guests will have the first opportunity to view 100 exquisitely trimmed trees of varying sizes.
Tickets to the Preview Gala are available in advance, at $125 per person or $200 per couple. While the larger trees are sponsored in advance, Preview Gala guests get the first opportunity to purchase the smaller trees, from 12 inches to three feet, in varying price ranges.
Greeted by snow upon arrival, guests will enjoy heavy hors d’oeuvres and signature cocktails in the Gold Ballroom at The Tidewater Inn while listening to the piano tunes of the talented Joan Dent. Dale Jafari is Preview Gala chairman, Ashley Robinson is co-chairman, and Gail Shorter and Reza Jafari are committee members.
In years past, Dale and her husband, Reza, participated in the Festival of Trees as small tree decorators. Together they feel strongly about helping in any way they can to support Talbot Hospice. When Ms. Jafari was offered the position of Preview Gala chairman, she was happy to provide that service.
“Hospice was unbelievably helpful to us as we dealt with the loss of my mother in 2019,” she said. “It is a debt I can never repay.”
Tickets to the Preview Gala are for sale in advance at festival-of-trees.org.
Festival of Trees
The signature event, the Festival of Trees in the Gold Ballroom, will have an array of decorated trees and live entertainment. Poinsettias and the Hospice tree are lovely additions to the room as well. The public is invited to view the trees for $10 on the following dates:
Nov. 25 - 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Nov. 26 - 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Nov. 27 - 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Nov 28 - 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Carols by Candlelight
This free holiday event returns for a fourth year. Choral groups, bell ringers and musicians will perform, and all spectators will receive a complimentary candle at Carols by Candlelight on Nov. 25 from 5-7 p.m. in downtown Easton on Harrison Street between Glenwood Avenue and Dover Street. Hot cocoa and holiday treats will be served. The celebration begins with a holiday marketplace, where accessories will be sold to help celebrate the beginning of the Christmas season in downtown Easton.
Santa 5K Fun Run
The Santa 5K Fun Run returns this year with running enthusiast Alisha Saulsbury serving as chairman. A longtime volunteer for Friends of Hospice, Ms. Saulsbury first sold cookies with her oldest child at the Festival of Trees. She co-founded the Mother-Son Dance, which enjoyed a nine-year run with her middle son helping along the way.
The Fun Run was a way of supporting Talbot Hospice alongside her youngest child and incorporated a sport she loves. The run begins and ends at Idlewild Park in Easton on Nov. 25 with registration in advance at fesival-of-trees.org or on-site at 8 a.m.
There will be age division awards and T-shirts for pre-registrants. Participants are encouraged to dress as elves. The cost is $40 per person. Registration is open now at festival-of-trees.org.
A Holiday House Tour leads up to the Christmas holidays. Mulberry Manor on Matthewstown Road in Easton will be elegantly decorated for the season and feature 10 Christmas trees.
Tours will be available from noon to 8 p.m. Nov. 25 and from noon to 5 p.m. Nov. 26. Tickets cost $20 in advance at festival-of-trees.org and on-site the day of for $25.
Homemade Christmas cookies and a festive drink will be provided as guests leave the home. Other features to look forward to will include a visit by Santa, at least a dozen outdoor inflatables, carolers and more.
The newest Festival of Trees event is being introduced Nov. 26 as Santa makes a visit and his elves offer free activities. For the admittance cost to the Festival of Trees, parents and guardians may enjoy activities together with children of all ages from noon to 4 p.m. in the Tidewater Inn’s Gold Ballroom Garden, in the outdoor rotunda just off the Gold Ballroom. Chairman Kari Diefenderfer and her committee members have been creating props for photo opportunities and preparing activities for months.
To get involved in any capacity, big or small, contact Karla Wieland-Cherry at email@example.com or 410-310-8421. Tickets are available at festival-of-trees.org. Visit the Festival of Trees on Facebook and Instagram.