At Quad City Arts in Rock Island, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, as the 35th anniversary of Festival of Trees will look different this year, but the holiday magic will continue in a whole new way.

Kaleigh Trammell is in her second year of coordinating Festival of Trees at Quad City Arts, and while the focus for the first time will be online and on TV, there also will be a gift shop and window displays at the Rock Island Gallery from Nov. 21 to 29.

The theme for the 35th-annual Kwik Star Festival of Trees is “Believe.”

“It has been a challenge,” she said recently. “When we made this decision, we were trying to look ahead to what November was going to look like and we wanted to do what was best for our community. By making this decision, we knew it was going to change so much about what we were doing, and also ultimately affect how much money we were going to bring in for supporting the arts.

“So basically, we reimagined what we were going to do to try to make up for that and find ways for the community to continue to support us, and also continue the tradition of Festival of Trees in the best way we knew how,” Trammell said.

Kicking off the holiday season during Covid, this year’s event will not be in person, but will highlight a televised Holiday Special & Day of Giving to air on KWQC-TV6 on Saturday, Nov. 21 at 10 a.m., co-hosted by Paula Sands and David Nelson.

The annual festival is the largest fundraiser for Quad City Arts, which supports a wide variety of arts programming in the six-county region.

There will be select tree designs, ornaments, gift shop items and VIP baskets available for bid and purchase at www.qcfestivaloftrees.com or

The traditional Festival of Trees holiday parade Saturday morning has been canceled.

at the Quad City Arts Rock Island Gallery (1715 2nd Ave.), from Nov. 21 to 29.

Other Festival favorites include Toy Tree donations for Toys for Tots, Honor Tree Ornaments and Festival “Exclusive” Isabel Bloom sculptures.

The one-hour Holiday Special & Day of Giving on KWQC will feature coverage from past Festival parades, Centerstage entertainment from Moline’s Spotlight Theatre stage, a special message from Santa and more. Quad City Arts invites the public to make a gift to the Day of Giving on the same day, in which many donations will be matched.

Contributions will be accepted through the end of December. A donation of just $10 gives one student an arts education experience for one year.

Every year, proceeds from Festival of Trees go to support local arts programming in our community, Trammell said.

 “The exciting is that we are going to be able to expose the community to our gallery,” she said, “and they’re going to come over to Rock Island and see the incredible artwork we have on display right now, and go shopping with us, to get gifts and holiday tchotchkes and things like that for themselves and family members, and also being able to support the arts by coming here and seeing all that we have.”

Advertisement

Compared to 160 Christmas trees at last year’s RiverCenter festival, they have five designers creating Christmas trees at the gallery, and eight door designs — all up for auction, Trammell said. People can see the designs and VIP gift baskets in person, but will have to bid online, starting Nov. 21.

She appreciated the Spotlight Theatre hosting the filmed entertainment this year.

Paula Sands and David Nelson will host a Holiday Special and Day of Giving at 10 a.m. Saturday on KWQC-TV6.

“It was really incredible to utilize that space; the Spotlight is beautiful,” she said. “It worked perfectly for what we needed. We were able to do a safe and socially distanced recording session with KWQC. We got excellent video footage of those acts that we’ll be able to feature on the holiday special.”

While there won’t be a 20-foot Toy Tree this year, RE/MAX River Cities is helping continue the tradition by accepting donations of new and unwrapped toys now until Nov. 30 at either RE/MAX River Cities location — 900 36th Avenue, Moline, or 4555 Utica Ridge Rd., Bettendorf. They will be given to the local Toys for Tots.

 “The nice thing is that folks who are not feeling comfortable to leave the house or go inside businesses can go and shop their Amazon Wish List, and that is a contact-free donation,” Trammell said. “You’re able to purchase that item from Amazon and they will ship that directly to the RE/MAX River Cities offices, which is kind of nice.”

Kevin Maynard is executive director of Quad City Arts.

Festival volunteers also have made a “cookie caravan” possible, who will deliver cookies and sing carols to residents of senior-citizen facilities in the area.

“We recognize a lot of those folks are probably feeling lonely this time of year. They’re not able to have visitors, and their families have seen them through a window, so we wanted to make sure they felt seen and felt special, so we have volunteers who are powering that.”

Over the past 35 years, Festival of Trees has evolved from a 2-day event in one room, into a 10-day event utilizing the entire 70,000 square foot River Center complex in downtown

Kaleigh Trammell is Festival of Trees Administrator.

Davenport. The event in typical years features 100-plus designer trees, 14 special events, the largest helium balloon parade in the Midwest, 3,500 volunteers and more than 100,000 visitors each year.

Festival usually has a $2.5-million economic impact on the community and is recognized as one of the top events of its kind in North America, raising over $8 million in support of local arts since 1986.

For more information on the pop-up gift shop and window display hours, and Festival overall, visit www.qcfestivaloftrees.com. To make a donation, visit qcfestivaloftrees.com/gift.

Advertisement

Jonathan Turner has been covering the Quad-Cities arts scene for 25 years, first as a reporter with the Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, and then as a reporter with the Quad City Times. Jonathan is also an accomplished actor and musician who has been seen frequently on local theater stages, including the Bucktown Revue and Black Box Theatre.