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Festival of Trees kicks off holiday season in Idaho Falls

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Rett Nelson |

IDAHO FALLS – The Festival of Trees kicked off its 43rd year this week with 32 Christmas trees on display in Idaho Falls.

The annual event helps raise funds for the Development Workshop, a local nonprofit that provides employment and skill training for people who are disabled.

“Our goal is to provide a lot of different types of experiences for people who have had a hard time entering the workforce so that they can have a successful experience,” Development Workshop President and CEO Mike O’Bleness tells

Funding for the nonprofit comes from people who decorate and donate a tree, buy a tree, or buy a meal.

Every tree on display is for sale. People can bid on them throughout the week. O’Bleness says they deliver the tree to the highest bidder at the end of the week.

Rett Nelson |

Some of the Christmas tree themes this year include “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” and “The Dress.”

The Little Joys Remembrance Foundation also has a tree on display containing ornaments with names of babies who were lost in pregnancy or during their first year of life. The foundation is sponsoring this year’s event.

“The holiday season serves as a reminder of what is missing for families who have lost a baby,” Executive Director Erica Willenbring said in a press release. “(We want to) make sure those babies are remembered and bring a little Christmas cheer to each family during what can be a difficult time of year.”

O’Bleness says over-crowding has been a challenge in recent years, but he says this year’s display has opened up to include more room.

“The Shilo Inn has opened up the hotel lobby for us to expand into. You can enjoy a meal while you watch the entertainment. Those beautiful Christmas trees aren’t blocking your view,” says O’Bleness.

Some 600 volunteers work throughout the week at Festival of Trees, from caterers to performers. Marci Nelson is singing at the event for the second year in a row. She says the Festival of Trees is a great way to kick off the Christmas season.

“It’s fun for the community to get together for something that is joyful,” Nelson tells us.

Festival of Trees goes until Friday. It’s happening from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily at the Shilo Inn Convention Center.

Rett Nelson |