Holiday season kicks off with Festival of Trees

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

 Extravagantly festive Christmas trees and wreaths, each decorated with its own unique theme and style, brightened the Orca Ballroom at the Tulalip Resort Casino during the 33rd annual Festival of Trees. 

The week-long celebration kicked off November 27 with Opening Night festivities, continued with the excitement-filled Gala Dinner and Live Auction on November 30, and concluded December 1 with the family friendly Teddy Bear Breakfast.

Each year, thousands of community members take part in the Festival of Trees – including volunteers, sponsors, and attendees – to raise funds for Children’s Services at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett. For more than three decades, Providence Children’s Center has been providing comprehensive, family-oriented care and highly specialized therapies – such as physical, occupational, speech and feeding therapy – for children with a wide variety of special needs.

“Knowing this is one of the largest charitable events for Snohomish County, it is appropriate for us to host and participate with goodwill and sharing the opportunity to help all children in need,” explained Marilyn Sheldon, manager of Tulalip Tribes Charitable Fund, on the importance of hosting the Festival and being the title sponsor. “We recognize that over 50% of Tulalip’s population is 0-24 years of age and Providence is our local hospital for care most tribal members use for emergency situations and other needs. Also, this event brings many people to our facilities for the week and encourages them to come back and host their own business/charity event at our venue.”

A highlight of the holiday season, the Festival of Trees provides entertainment for countless families and children. Whether it’s a black-tie evening with a three-course dinner or a free afternoon with cookies and Santa, the Festival’s variety of events offer holiday cheer for all kinds of crowds. The stunningly decorated Christmas trees won’t soon be forgotten as their specialized themes like ‘Tiding of Comfort’ and ‘Christmas with Rudolph’ to ‘Escape with Alaskan Wildlife’ and ‘Holiday at Hogwarts’ capture the imagination.

During the elegant Gala Dinner and Live Auction, the dazzling Christmas trees and wreaths were sold to the highest bidders, with proceeds going to Providence Children’s Services. Several of the trees were reserved to be put on display throughout the Children’s Center as a special treat for the kids this holiday season.

“We continue an annual tradition that has raised more than $11 million over the past 33 years for children and families who come to Providence for care,” stated Festival Chairs, Sean and Lisa Kelly. “Funds raised will not only provide critical support for pre-term and at-risk infants, but will also touch the lives of thousands of children in our community, from birth through age 18.”

The generosity of the donors and Festival attendees support Providence in growing and expanding the specialized therapies, equipment and educational classes that do so much to change young lives. All funds raised will support Providence programs and services such as Pediatrics, the Newborn Intensive Care Unit, the Children’s Center, the Autism Center, and Camp Prov, a summer camp for children with special needs. 

For nearly two decades, Tulalip Tribes has been an important partner to Providence in the Northwest Washington Region, by helping provide the funding and support needs to care for the health of our growing community. Contributions made by Tulalip to Providence General Foundation since 2002 have totaled more than $700,000. For their dedication to the Festival of Trees, the Tulalip Tribes were honored with the third annual Spirit of Festival Award.

“The lives of thousands of children, that includes Tulalip tribal children, will be helped thanks to the generosity received from the Festival of Trees fundraising efforts,” said Board of Director Mel Sheldon, thirteen-year member of the Providence General Foundation. “We are very fortunate to have a relationship with Providence Medical Center and to support such an amazing opportunity that really looks at the bigger the picture. We all want to do our part to create a sustainable and healthy community.”

One of Snohomish County’s largest and most well attended holiday events, the Festival of Trees has been a beloved community tradition for 33 years. The magical setting and community spirit at the Festival is a wonderful kick-off to the holiday season. 

Conservation Group Collects Christmas Trees For Salmon Habitat

Members of the Tualatin Valley chapter of Trout Unlimited toss used Christmas trees into a side channel of the Necanicum River on the Oregon Coast. | credit: Michael Ellis
Members of the Tualatin Valley chapter of Trout Unlimited toss used Christmas trees into a side channel of the Necanicum River on the Oregon Coast. | credit: Michael Ellis


By Cassandra Profita, OPB


Most Christmas trees get kicked to the curb and ground up into mulch after the holidays. But a Portland-area conservation group is trying to change that.

The Tualatin Valley chapter of Trout Unlimited has found used Christmas trees make great salmon habitat when placed in coastal waterways.

Next month, they’re launching the third year of a program they call Christmas for Coho. They’ll collect used Christmas trees on three Saturdays in January and place them in the Necanicum River, coastal stream in northwest Oregon.

There, once submerged in water, the dying trees will take on a whole new life.

Michael Ellis, the group’s conservation director, said the trees provide valuable woody debris that salmon can use to hide from predators.

“It’s pretty incredible. We’ll be putting trees into the Necanicum River and you can actually observe fish flocking to these trees,” he said. “They’re just looking for this kind of cover.”

The trees also feed microorganisms that attract other critters for baby salmon to eat before they head out to sea.

Coho Sanctuary is one of the wetlands where the group has placed trees. Its owner captured underwater videos of young coho salmon swimming through the habitat.

Ellis said the group has found lamprey and other wildlife using the habitat, too.

“We’ve seen salamander egg masses being laid on the Christmas trees,” he said. “So we believe it’s really enriching the environment quite a bit for just about everything that uses the wetland. It’s pretty neat, really.”

Ellis’ group will be collecting used Christmas trees on January 3, 10 and 17 from 9 am to 4 p.m. at two fly-fishing shops: Northwest Fly Fishing Outfitters in Portland and Joel La Follette’s Royal Treatment in West Linn.

The group requests a $10 donation to cover the cost of transporting the trees.

Conservation Group Turns Christmas Trees Into Salmon Habitat

When submerged in a coastal stream, an old Christmas tree offers young salmon protection from predators and new potential food sources. | credit: Courtesy of Tualatin Valley Trout Unlimited
When submerged in a coastal stream, an old Christmas tree offers young salmon protection from predators and new potential food sources. | credit: Courtesy of Tualatin Valley Trout Unlimited

Cassandra Profita, Earth Fix

Before you kick your dying Christmas tree to the curb, consider this: Members of the conservation group Trout Unlimited would love to turn that tree into fish habitat.

On three Saturdays in January, the Tualatin Valley chapter of Trout Unlimited will be collecting Christmas tree donations at two locations in the Portland metropolitan area. Later, they’ll place the trees into a side channel of the Necanicum River near Seaside, where they will provide predator protection and food sources for baby coho salmon.

The group is entering the third year of a program called Christmas for Coho. It’s is one of many groups across the country turning old Christmas trees into fish habitat. Similar projects have taken place in California, Missouri, Ohio and Louisiana.

Tualatin Valley Trout Unlimited board member Mike Gentry helped place Christmas trees into a coastal stream the first year of Christmas for Coho – back in 2012. He said he saw baby coho swimming to the site as soon as the trees hit the water.

“Even while we were still working in there placing the trees, we could see many little bitty fish gathering around us and coming in under the trees,” he said. “We weren’t even done with the project.”

Christmas trees in a coastal stream. Photo by Michael D. Ellis

Once submerged in water, Christmas trees provide places for microorganisms to grow and attract other critters that baby salmon can eat before they head out to sea.

“They’re like magnets for fish,” said wetlands restoration consultant Doug Ray of Carex Consulting, who is also a member of the Tualatin Valley chapter of Trout Unlimited. “The fish will stay under the cover of the branches during the day and come out at night to feed.”

The Pacific Northwest could be using recycled Christmas trees all over the place to help salmon, Ray said. Within days of putting the trees under water, a brown algae starts growing on the needles. Other critters flock to the branches to eat the algae, and a new food web is born.

“They’re covered within a couple of weeks,” said Ray. “It’s like a Chia pet. Just add water.”

Ray and Gentry are hoping that the Christmas for Coho program will encourage more people to start turning Christmas trees into salmon habitat.

“If everyone in Oregon took their Christmas trees and put them into a stream instead of chipping them into mulch, it would be a really valuable gift to salmon,” said Ray.

The Tualatin Valley chapter of Trout Unlimited will be collecting trees on Jan. 4, 11 and 18th from 9 am to 4 pm at two locations: Royal Treatment Fly Shop, 21570 Willamette Dr., in West Linn; and Northwest Fly Fishing Outfitters, 10910 NE Halsey, in Portland.