HomeThe Virtual CrunchEventsKennedy Krieger's Festival of Trees is going virtual again

Kennedy Krieger’s Festival of Trees is going virtual again

Dr. Bradley L. Schlaggar calls May “the halcyon days.” At that point, the Kennedy Krieger Institute was ready to give the go-ahead to welcoming thousands to its biggest fundraiser — the Festival of Trees — at the Maryland State Fairgrounds.

Covid-19 had other plans. The spike in cases of the deadly virus this summer has once again upended the popular event, considered by many to be the kickoff to the holidays in Greater Baltimore on the day after Thanksgiving.

Schlaggar said the Baltimore health care institution decided to offer some elements of the event in person — outside at the fairgrounds — and the rest online once again. As an institution that serves vulnerable children and their families, it only made sense, he said.

“We want to have a fun and family event but we also have to be safe,” said Schalaggar, the institution’s CEO. “The shift was really driven by the realities of the pandemic.’’

The festival, which takes place Nov. 26-28, will be a hybrid event that still includes entertainment and the sale of decorated trees, wreaths and gingerbread houses online. And it will also include an outdoor toy drive in the Maryland State Fairgrounds parking lot to collect toys for the children of Kennedy Krieger. The toy drive takes place Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“Many of the families we work with have struggled with Covid,” Schlaggar said. “We want to provide new toys to make their holidays a little brighter.’’

Schlaggar said he’s thrilled that corporate sponsorship has remained strong despite the event not coming back in full force again. Truist, the bank created by the merger of SunTrust Bank and BB&T, will continue SunTrust’s tradition of being the main sponsor. Other major sponsors include the Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., Erickson Senior Living, First Home Mortgage Corp., BD and H&S Family of Bakeries.

Fundraising for the event dropped to $680,000 last year after the pandemic forced it to go online. That was down from $1.19 million the previous year. The event typically charges an admission fee but the virtual event is free.

But Schlaggar is optimistic that the hybrid event will draw both dollars and goodwill for Kennedy Krieger this year.

Lisa Nickerson, a Kennedy Krieger spokeswoman, said the event’s goal has always been to be both a “friend-raiser as well as a fundraiser.’’

If anything, being online has made the silent auction process even more competitive, Schlaggar said. Bidders don’t have to worry they’ll be outbid when they leave the Cow Palace. Instead, they can keep on bidding.

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