ONTARIO — One of Malheur County’s biggest holiday event of the year, the Festival of Trees, is set to kick off Thursday, Nov. 17, and will run through Saturday, Nov. 19, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Four Rivers Cultural Center.
On Thursday, the doors open at 7 a.m. Admission is free from 7 to 9 a.m. After 9 a.m., the cost is $2 for adults and $1 for children.
The holiday festival will feature decorated trees, centerpieces and wreaths for sale and 75 percent of the proceeds will go to local charities, Meals on Wheels and Help Them to Hope.
Longtime event organizer Debbie Blackaby said the festival accounts for about one-third of the Meals on Wheels budget.
Meals on Wheels provides home-delivered meals to local elderly homebound residents over 60. In addition, Help Them to Hope delivers food, clothing and toys to needy families during the holidays.
In addition to a Christmas carnival from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday featuring games and a cake walk for children, Santa Claus, with Mrs. Claus in tow, will make a grand entrance on a fire truck on Saturday. From noon to 3 p.m., kids can get their pictures taken with Santa.
Blackaby said as the sole fundraiser for Meals on Wheels, the Festival of Trees is the one time of the year for people to show their support for the aging population in Malheur County.
Blackaby said the seniors tend not to raise their hand and ask for help, which, she said, makes it easy to forget that they are struggling after the worst of the pandemic.
“We kind of forget about them,” Blackaby said. “Children are always at the forefront of our minds, yet the aging population still needs help.”
Blackaby pointed out that many in the senior population in Malheur County are shut in at their homes and alone.
“(Seniors) helped raise us,” she said. “Now it’s our turn to watch out for them and make sure they’re being cared for.”
EXCELLENCE IN JOURNALISM – Available for $7.50 a month. Subscribe to the digital service of the Enterprise and get the very best in local journalism. We report with care, attention to accuracy, and an unwavering devotion to fairness. Get the kind of news you’ve been looking for – day in and day out from the Enterprise.