Fiercely Festive

By Megan Wadding, December 2016 Issue.

The season of holiday traditions is upon us. And what better way to informally kick things off than the eighth annual Festival of Trees, presented by the Greater Phoenix Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (GPGLCC).

This annual holiday tradition, which started in 2008 under Joseph Gesullo’s leadership, will take place Dec. 3 at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix.

“The eight annual Festival of Trees is meant to bring the community together around a time when everyone has open hearts and giving is on the mind,” said Deanna Jordon, GPGLCC chair. “The Chamber has used this event to bring joy, laughter and financial support to deserving nonprofits and this year is no exception. It is an event where you come for the fun and you leave knowing you made a difference.”

Each year, proceeds from the event benefit a local organization. This year the chamber selected the Phoenix chapter of GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network).

“… GLSEN, which is a national network that has local footprints with Phoenix is a big one, for helping to support the K-12 Gay/Straight Alliances,” said Bobby Gordon, event committee chair. “They really support anti-bullying efforts and LGBTQ educational resources …”

The Festival of Trees event kicks off with the VIP reception, which goes from 5-6 p.m. Attendees who have purchased tickets for this will be given a few extra appetizers, a complimentary drink and the ability to interact with the special guests and tree designers, according to Gordon.

“We’ve got some great folks lined up for the VIP reception. We’ll have some local and federal folks who will attend, such as [Arizona State Representative] Katie Hobbs,” said Gordon.

Hobbs first attended last year and was invited to attend again this year.

“[The Festival of Trees] is a fabulous and festive way to kick off December and the holiday season. I’ve been asked to speak at the VIP reception,” Hobbs said. “This year’s beneficiary is particularly meaningful to me because of the work GLSEN does to create safe schools for all students. I have worked throughout my legislative career to strengthen state laws in the area of bullying policy, and GLSEN has been a great partner in that.”

The evening will include light hors d’oeuvres, cash bars managed by Kobalt and holiday music from both a DJ and live choruses.

“This year, we have the Phoenix Men’s Chorus and the Phoenix Women’s Chorus and Voices of the Desert who will have small ensembles wandering through as holiday carolers,” Gordon said.

The live auction of the “super designer-quality trees,” wreaths and menorahs, Gordon said, will take place throughout the evening. Gordon said he is expecting more than 15 trees, about 10 wreaths and two menorahs.

Brad Speck, a two-time HGTV House Hunters star and local realtor, will be the event’s live auctioneer and Brandon Lee, Emmy award-winning journalist from 3TV / CBS7, will serves as the evening’s emcee.

This year, the chamber reached out to the community for tree designers and donations.

“I think you’ll see a lot of the local LGBTQ community come out in ways we haven’t seen in years because of all of the local organizations that are doing trees,” said Gordon. “I think we’re in for a treat and for quite a show when it comes to showing off the creativity of the local LGBTQ community.”

Some of the tentative tree themes include an HIV/AIDS awareness tree and a wine tree celebrating each of the twelve days of Christmas, according to Gordon.

This year, anyone who purchases a tree will be able to have it delivered to their home by Two Men and a Truck, who have donated their services to this event.

The night will also feature a silent raffle, which will include many donated items such as spa packages.

The event finishes up with the grand-prize drawing of the Travel Tree package, which according to Gordon, includes an expertly-designed tree as well as a trip for two to Australia, including airfare and hotel. Only 100 tickets are being sold for the Travel Tree package raffle.

Because the chamber is expecting 300-400 attendees, which would make this their largest event to date, Gordon is encouraging attendees to purchase their tickets in advance.

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