MATTOON -- Designers are gearing up to transform the Lumpkin Family Center for Health Education at Sarah Bush Lincoln into a shimmering winter wonderland for the annual Festival of Trees, now in its 19th year.

The public is invited to share in this event, themed “A Heartfelt Christmas,” from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 18. The foundation would like to extend a special thank you to this year’s sponsors: Media Sponsor, Consolidated Communications; Title Sponsors, Ervin Equipment, Inc., and Dale & Marilyn Hoots; Gala sponsors, BSA Life Structures, Coles-Moultrie Electric Cooperative & CoBank, First Mid-Illinois Bank & Trust, and Meadowview Golf Course; and Memory Star Tree Title Sponsors, WMCI, The Party, The Axe and Victory.

“Festival of Trees is one of the premier holiday events in this area and truly helps to get our community into the spirit of the season,” Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Foundation Special Events Coordinator Kim Lockart said. “We’re excited about the many new additions to this year’s Festival.”

Net proceeds from Festival of Trees support Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Foundation’s current initiative, “Life ... Nothing Beats It,” a capital campaign to raise funds for the cardiology expansion project that will include a new Heart Center and 21 new private patient rooms.

The event kicks off with an exclusive preview during “Friends Night Out,” from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday. Guests may purchase cash-and-carry items, bid on silent auction items and view the beautifully adorned Education Center before doors open to the public the following morning. Tickets for Thursday night, which can be purchased in advance or at the door, are available for $10 and include a free signature drink.

The event features 4-foot Christmas trees, centerpieces and home décor items sold by silent auction. Two-foot tabletop trees and 18-inch wreaths, designed by Sarah Bush Lincoln employees and volunteers, will be available for purchase for $40 each. Live, 6- to 8-foot Fraser fir trees, ranging in price from $55 to $65, will also be sold and are sponsored by Hager Tree Farm in Charleston.

In addition, the Merry Marketplace will feature retail items such as holiday décor, word signs, scarves and more, while Packages with Pizzazz offer themed gifts assembled in baskets or decorative boxes for that hard-to-buy-for person on your list. This year there will be even more child-focused packages. Flesor’s Candy Kitchen will also have handmade candies available.

The festival’s premier event is the formal gala the evening of Nov. 18 where full-size trees, wreaths and specialty items, designed, decorated, and sponsored by community members and local businesses, are sold during a live auction. All items are available for viewing throughout the three-day event.

“Each year, the festival continues to grow and once again, we have some truly incredible items that we’re excited to showcase,” Lockart said, adding that musical entertainment by local artists will enhance the atmosphere during the event. “And of course the highlight among our young guests is the chance to visit with Santa Claus.”

Children are invited to have their photos taken with Santa, provided by J-Wag Photo, and enjoy Cookies with Claus, donated by Mark’s My Store. Kids can also have their faces painted, donated by Wild Style Design Company.

The festival will again feature the Memory Star Tree, which displays stars purchased in honor of or in memory of someone special. Following the festival, people are encouraged to take their star home to enjoy throughout the holidays. Funds raised from the Memory Star Tree benefit Lincolnland Hospice programs.

General admission for Festival of Trees is $3 for adults; children age 12 and under are admitted for free. For more information about the festival, contact Kim Lockart, event coordinator, at 217-238-4765 or go to www.sarahbush.org. To purchase tickets for Friends Night Out, call Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Foundation at 217-258-2511.

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