The committee got together and wrote a letter asking community leadership for donations of trees and other holiday items.
This was the birth of the inaugural Holiday Tree Festival.
The first tree festival featured one miniature tree and 15 regular-sized trees.
“This was also the first year for the Cap and Bootie Tree,” said McGuckin. “People put money in the baby caps as they walked by the tree.”
The festival was at the Quaker Square Hilton the first year and raised more than $26,000 for the hospital. The committee also got a few people with trucks to help deliver holiday joy.
“Our first committee had 12 or 13 people on it, but it just all came together that year,” said McGuckin. “And now the festival has just continued to grow.”
Throughout the years, the committee and the festival have grown. The festival moved to its current location at the John S. Knight Center and now has more than 1,400 committee members. There are also more than 150 trees, and countless other wreaths and holiday gifts.
One thing that hasn’t changed, and never will, is that admission to the festival is free.
“Bill Considine and I had a meeting about the admission fee the second year of the festival,” said McGuckin. “My boss wanted to charge a dollar, but seeing all these families and their children come down and celebrate, I couldn’t ask for their money. And Mr. Considine agreed.”
The concept of the festival is same as when it started 32 years ago. Money is still going to the hospital and helping the children in the community, and now it’s family tradition for many.
“It’s grown in size, but the concept is still the same,” said Patti Kelleher, a Holiday Tree Festival volunteer since 1983. “We are still able to sell all the trees and the wonderful support of the community has stayed the same.”
“It’s one of the best things a community member could attend,” said McGuckin. “It’s a community-oriented event; it’s for the children and the hospital. And it’s gorgeous – awesome actually.”
To see the trees, wreaths and other holiday creations, visit the Holiday Tree Festival, Nov. 23- Dec. 1, at the John S. Knight Center. Admission to the festival is free. For more information, click here.