I think my family started attending the Fantasy of Trees around twenty-five years ago. Through personal experience we’d come to greatly appreciate the people at Children’s Hospital and we were happy to support any event that supported them.
The convention center hadn’t been built at that point, of course, but the event was held downstairs in the large conference hall at the Holiday Inn. There used to be quite a few events there. Who knows? Hopefully it will soon become the site of our new MUSE and will be filled with life again.
If I remember correctly, and I may be getting my events crossed, a silent auction used to be a big part of the proceedings. I think it was there that a friend bought an autographed photograph of Casey Kasem (look him up, children) and presented it to me as a gift. In any case, Urban Daughter was a tiny thing when we started attending and it’s been one of the highlights of our Christmas season almost every year since.
I’d love to say it’s a wonderland for children, and that may be true for the slightly older ones. For a four-year-old urban girl, it was a matter of wondering when we’d finish looking at trees so she could go on the rides and get her face painted. The trees were more for the adults in our party.
All the trees are donated from various groups and businesses who either decorate them or pay to have someone decorate them. The themes bounce all over the place from very traditional to whimsical to a bit unusual, but it’s all fun. The proceeds from the sales of the trees goes to the hospital as does the $12 admission, the dollar or two for rides and crafts, the sale of various Christmas-themed objects in the shops, and so on. You get the idea.
We stopped in to see Santa from a distance. It’s not your best or easiest place to see the guy, in my opinion: just after opening the line was already formidable. We also ducked our head in on the entertainment. Various groups – generally children or teenagers – sing, dance or otherwise perform throughout the five day event.
The trees are also sometimes arranged with an entire room of furniture to create a scene which is often a nostalgic one. Antique or semi-antique furniture and toys are used liberally. Entire rooms may be purchased in some cases. A section is devoted to trees and decorations around fireplaces and an entire wall is covered with wreaths. All for sale, of course.
We finally reached the promised land for Urban Girl in the form of the carousel, which is a beautiful old-fashioned affair. From that point the children’s activities took over, but also a feature which has only made its appearance in the last few years: The ginger-bread houses. I’m not sure Knoxville is ready to compete with, say, the show at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, but there were some excellent ginger bread houses. I’ll show you those tomorrow.