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Perhaps Santa dropped his sack at the 1997 Festival of Trees. The collection of stuffed bears and other toys is just one of many features of the annual festival, which kicks off the Quad-Cities holiday season.

For 12 years, the organizers of Festival of Trees continue to find a fresh approach to the biggest and most lavish Christmas party in the Quad-Cities.

``Each activity, every event and distinct designer creations in every category are all unique worlds of their own,'' said Karen Getz, festival chairwoman for several years. ``We get such an overwhelming response from the public. Every year we aim to `knock their socks off,' and by the delight reflected in their faces, I hope we do.''

The 10-day festival held each November has expanded over the years from its original display of speciality trees, wreaths, hearths and room vignettes to eventually include such perennial favorites as Touching Trees in the Feeling Forest, a special holiday feature for the visually impaired; The Holiday Pops Concert by the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, followed by Dessert Among the Trees; and the daddy-daughter dinner dance called the Sugar Plum Ball.

Every year, festival organizers line up an amazing number of designers, both professional and amateur, to create more than 200 holiday trees, stockings and handmade ornaments, wreaths, mantelpieces with door and table decorations as well as a Gingerbread Village.

Highlights just for children include the activity center called Children's World, Cookyland, Storybook Trees, Children's Playhouse, Talking Tree, Most Loved Tree, Festival Zoo Tree, Toyland Treasures and a petting zoo. Children also delight every year in the miniature displays of trains, Ferris wheels, unique creatures, petite trees, sleighs and Santas of all sorts.

Santa himself arrives every year, taking time for children of all ages. Santa's Sack Gift Shop has decorations, treasures, trinkets and souvenirs that capture Festival's magic throughout the year.

The Festival of Trees Holiday Parade, always the first Saturday of the festival, is highlighted by many of the same balloons that fly at Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade also has floats, marching bands and a clown corp filling the streets of downtown Davenport.

Other favorite Festival features include the Teddy Bear Teas where hundreds of children along with a parent or grandparent enjoy costumed characters, magicians, storytellers and sing-a-longs. Trim-A-Home Luncheon, Celebrity Lunch and the Festival Fashion Show and Luncheon provide special daytime fun for festival-goers.

The teen dance, Jingle Jam, grows every year as more and more high school students participate. For the grown-ups, there's the Holiday Happy Hour at the Radisson Quad City Hotel.

The big evening event that wraps up the festival is the Gala, the formal dinner dance the last Saturday of the festival. The evening begins with Gala Grand Salon, a cocktail reception at the Black Hawk Hotel.

In addition to creating the biggest Christmas party in the Quad Cities, Festival of Trees, the largest annual fundraiser for Quad City Arts, creates the revenues to put on many of the area's best arts events.

Quad City Arts, a not-for-profit agency that operates on an annual budget of $1.2 million, relies on Festival of Trees to generate roughly 36 percent of its operating capital.

``People don't realize how much money is spent in the community to put on this event,'' said Kate Swiegle, Festival of Trees administrator for Quad City Arts. ``The hundreds of designers and artists who help create festival pitch in their own money in stores throughout the community to create their designs.

``And that's not to mention all the people who come into the community for festival who stay and shop, eat in restaurants, etc. This economic impact all benefits the community.''

-- By Lisa Mohr (January 26, 1998)

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