It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, thanks to holiday festivals sponsored by health care organizations throughout southern Idaho. Festivals of Trees are fun family traditions for many, as beautifully ornamented trees symbolize the holiday season. The festivals draw big crowds and raise thousands of dollars for community health needs.

Here’s what’s happening at Festivals of Trees throughout southern Idaho:

Photo © Jason LugoTwin Falls
Nov. 28-Dec. 2

Fate would have it that Merrily Huether, born on Christmas Day, would oversee the Festival of Trees, hosted by the St. Luke Magic Valley Health Foundation.
“Isn’t that too funny? It’s kind of ironic,” Huether said.
Last year nearly 13,000 people attended the festival.
“It’s the premier event of the season here in Twin Falls. It kicks off the holidays,” Huether said. “It’s nice when the whole community stands behind your local hospital.”
This year the foundation celebrates “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and is raising money for its children’s programs. They expect about 50 six-foot trees to be donated, as well as wreaths, quilts, tabletops and centerpieces.
The public may view the trees at 9 a.m., Nov. 29 at a cost of $4. That day senior citizens may visit free of charge.
The foundation plans three venues for the event. The first will begin Nov. 29 at 5 p.m., at the Herrett Center where buyers may view the trees. At 6 p.m., buyers will meet at the Renaissance Office complex for the live auction. That night at 7 p.m., the Ladies Night Out Fashion show will be held at the Turf Club on Falls Avenue.
On Dec. 1, the foundation will host Children’s Day where all children will be admitted free. Dec. 2 is family day and those with coupons from the Times-News will be admitted free.
For more information call 737-2481.

Photo © Jason LugoSun Valley – Sun Valley Inn, Limelight Room
Nov. 29

The holiday season and the word “magical” have always gone hand-in-hand. The Blaine County Senior Connection celebrates its magical 10th anniversary of the Wood River Festival of Trees. The Gala Evening begins at 6:30 p.m. at The Limelight Room in Sun Valley. The honorary chairpersons, John and Lois McDonald, will be on hand to see that everyone has a good time.
This magical evening begins with drinks, hors d’oeuvres, music by Bruce Innes and Cheryl Morrel, a live auction with Larry Flynn and a $5,000 cash raffle. Larry will be auctioning the beautiful trees, which are generously donated and decorated with flare and imagination by local businesses, schools, individuals and other charities. At past festivals, glimpses of the magic of Christmas were evident during the event: A local gentleman bought a tree for a 90-year-old senior, a businessman asked that his tree go to a needy family, and an ill neighbor was surprised when friends chipped in and bought her a tree.
As the benefit party for the Senior Connection, this year’s focus will be to raise money to purchase new kitchen equipment. The kitchen is the focal point in the center and new equipment will help staff be more efficient in providing well-planned meals for lunches and Meals on Wheels.
Call 788-3468 for more information, tickets, and reservations for the Gala Evening.

Photo © Jason LugoGooding – Idaho School for the Deaf and Blind, Round Building
Dec. 6-9

If you would like to purchase a real Christmas tree, then head to the Gooding Christmas Tree Festival, hosted by the Gooding County Memorial Hospital.
“Oh it smells so good in there. You walk in, and you just want to die. It’s just a good smell of Christmas,” said festival official Cyndi Hoekstra. “I like the people, the music and the lights. It’s all just so much fun for our community.”
The hospital provides the trees and residents decorate the seven-footers that are later auctioned off.
“It’s just been a tradition; the hospital has always furnished real trees. It’s a little bit of a twist on festivals. It sure works for us,” Hoekstra said.
The festival is open 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The silent auction is during the gala, scheduled for Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. Wreaths, ceramics and other “Christmasy things” will be available for purchase. Proceeds are given to scholarships for medical students.
This year’s theme is “Angels Among Us.” The foundation is asking Gooding residents to nominate someone who has done something heavenly.
“We all have angels. It could be someone who has helped you through an illness or a car accident,” she said.
For more information call 934-4433.

Photo © Jason LugoJerome – Best Western Sawtooth Inn
Nov. 29-30

Instead of trees, Jerome is home to a Festival of Wreaths, hosted by the St. Benedict’s Hospital Foundation. The wreaths are artificial and money raised goes to replenish the foundation’s coffers.
For more information call 324-0432.

Rupert – Civic Auditorium
Nov. 23-26

In Rupert, the Caring and Sharing Christmas Tree Festival has special significance for its director Tammy Hanks, a cancer and leukemia survivor who was recently given a clean bill of health.
“This community reached out to me and now I can reach out to them. I can give them the miracle of compassion by helping organize this event,” she said.
This is Hanks’ first year to oversee the festival, which is made possible by the Minidoka Health Care Foundation. Pattie Hansen, now of Twin Falls, ran the festival for several years.
“I want it to be as wonderful and as charming as it has been in the past. I’ve got some really big shoes to fill to make that happen, but I’ve got a great committee,” Hanks said.
This year’s theme is “Peace on Earth.” Entertainment that includes singing and dancing will run throughout the festival.
“I think there’s a special spirit there. ‘Enchanting’ is a very fitting word. It brings the community together,” she said.
About 60 artificial Christmas trees will be donated. Other items such as wreaths and blankets will also be available for purchase. Proceeds help a variety of health-related needs in the community.
On Nov. 24, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., the festival will host a Teddy Bear Breakfast for children who provide a toy to the Tree of Joy. The festival will be open until 8 p.m. that day.
On Sunday, Nov. 25, organizers will host a religious program from noon to 5 p.m. On Nov. 26, the festival is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. with a Senior Social from 1 to 3 p.m. Buyers may purchase trees from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. that day.
For more information call 436-0481

Photo © Jason LugoBurley – College of Southern Idaho’s Mini-Cassia Center
Nov. 28-30

In Burley, the Cassia Health Care Foundation is celebrating its 30th Christmas Tree Festival.
“Ours was actually the first in the state of Idaho,” says foundation official Tamara Janak.
Janak says the festival jumpstarts the holidays.
“It just signals the beginning of the season for our community,” she

Photo © Jason Lugo

Maddison Ramsey performs at the Burley Festival of Trees with En Point Dance.

Artificial trees as well as quilts and centerpieces are donated to the event. Money raised will go toward scholarships and community quick response units. There will be ongoing entertainment throughout the event.
“It’s a good place for locals to showcase their talents,” Janak said.
A gala will be held Nov. 28 at 6 p.m., and costs $35. On Nov. 29, from 10 a.m. to noon, a Christmas tree showing will be held for the handicapped and senior citizens; the event will open to the public at noon and will remain open until 9 p.m. The festival continues on Nov. 30, from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.
For more information call 678-4444.