By Carol South
Special to the Record-Eagle
TRAVERSE CITY — The Zonta Club of Traverse City's Festival of Trees taps the beauty of Christmas to boost area individuals and organizations.
Featuring festivities from Wednesday through Sunday, the multi-faceted event includes a fashion show, a doll tea, a veterans celebration, craft and cooking demonstrations and a bake sale.
The event transforms the Hagerty Center on Northwestern Michigan College's Great Lakes Campus into a Christmas wonderland.
The 35 professional trees showcased are available for auction. The designs are limited only by creators' imaginations. Designers come from a variety of sources, including professionals, teams from local companies, individuals and even a card club.
"They come up with such incredible ideas," said Sue Carlson, chair of the professional tree committee for the Zonta Club. "To be there when all the decorators come and bring their trees and make the transformation is just amazing."
The Festival of Trees furthers the local chapter of the international women's service organization's mission to improve the lives of women and children. The organization grants about $30,000 to other nonprofit organizations and also awards $3,000 in scholarships. The money raised locally stays in the Grand Traverse region.
Grant and award recipients this year include Bethany Christian Services, Catholic Services, Department of Human Services, Habitat for Humanity, the Munson Foundation and Traverse Health Clinic.
Scholarships include women attending Northwestern Michigan College, students going to Space Camp, an Inland Seas scholarship and partial scholarships for women attending Leadership Grand Traverse.
The Festival of Trees is an integral part of this support.
"This is our major fundraiser every year," said Deb Jackson, vice president of the Zonta Club of Traverse City.
Carrie Nunnelley, a designer with the Terrarium Bar in Traverse City is working on the business' second annual Festival of Trees contribution. Her Up North themed tree, titled "Traverse Tidings," features handmade ornaments and garlands.
"We believe that Christmas should have a classic home feel," she said. "Something that you'd see when you went to your grandma's."
The Terrarium Bar has developed a friendly competition with The Floral Underground; the two businesses share space in the Garland Street Warehouse District.
"We always try to do better than our business partner," Nunnelley said.
This year the two designs will be like comparing apples to oranges: The Floral Underground is creating an all-white garland piece that is classically breathtaking.
"It's glitzy and glowy," said Tony Murphy, an assistant designer at The Floral Underground, which has participated in the Festival of Trees for six or seven years. "Derek, the owner, he always tries to do something completely different, off the wall from everyone else."
The Zonta Club of Traverse City has hosted the Festival of Trees for almost 20 years. Club members inherited the popular holiday-themed event from Munson Medical Center, who took it over after buying the former Traverse City Osteopathic Hospital.
Another Festival of Trees fundraising endeavor is selling about 60 handmade wreathes as well as more than 240 other donated or handmade gift baskets, wall trees, centerpieces, pillows, candle arrangements and aprons.
A subset of the Zonta Club of Traverse City's 70 members devotes months to handcrafting the array of decorations.
"This has been really outstanding this year," said Jackson of the "all hands on deck" effort since August.