SANDY, Utah—It’s holiday magic, with a message. The annual Festival of Trees opened to the public Wednesday, with nearly 800 trees on display.
In a warehouse full of wonder, it’s no wonder families come to take in the Christmas spirit.
"You can hear the music, the magic. People are happy to be here," said RaCail Hays, Festival of Trees Publicity Department Chair.
Each tree is dedicated to a special person or cause. Many people have passed away, and the tree is meant to remember and honor them.
Walking through the rows of trees can become an emotional journey, as visitors learn each story.
It’s not just the trees that have a special meaning. Businesses and organizations donate gingerbread houses, wreaths, and other holiday items for the auction.
At the head of the gingerbread section, parents and kids marveled at an elaborate Toy Story gingerbread display.
Carefully painted Toy Story characters stood along with carnival rides and glittering lights.
Buildings towered in the background and mini decorated trees dotted the large edible art piece.
“This was made by the women at the Timpanogos Regional Facility. They are actually in prison,” Hays explained.
She described how incarcerated women in the prison culinary arts program, under the direction of Lieutenant Rod Villamil, spent months creating the design and building the display.
“They're doing good things, and they’re sharing their talents with us,” she said.
Hays said the women came in to set the display up and put on the finishing touches. The crowd will never know the stories of each woman who worked on the gingerbread house.
But what matters at the Festival of Trees, is the story they’ve created by giving back.
“To learn a skill and to do something better with it, and to think that we get to come here and enjoy it—just means a little bit more,” Hays said. “It's special.”
The women won’t see their work appreciated, but they know it’s going to a good cause.
“The money that we raise here goes to the children at Primary Children's Hospital,” Hays explained.
A sweet gesture, that’s part of the bigger message of giving back during the holidays.
Festival of Trees runs every day through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy.