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COVID & the Arts: Pandemic Changes Festival of Trees


At Quad City Arts in Rock Island, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. The 35th anniversary of Festival of Trees will look different this year, but the holiday magic will continue in a whole new way. 

Kaleigh Trammell is in her second year of coordinating the Festival of Trees at Quad City Arts, and while the focus will be online and on TV, there also will be a gift shop and window displays at the Rock Island Gallery from Nov. 21 to 29.

Credit Quad City Arts
the stage at the Spotlight Theater

“It has been a challenge. When we made this decision, we were trying to look ahead to what November was going to look like and we wanted to do what was best for our community. By making this decision, we knew it was going to change so much about what we were doing, and also ultimately affect how much money we were going to bring in for supporting the arts.

“So basically, we reimagined what we were going to do to try to make up for that and find ways for the community to continue to support us, and also continue the tradition of Festival of Trees in the best way we knew how.”

Kicking off the holiday season during Covid, this year’s event will not be in person, but the highlight will be  a televised Holiday Special and Day of Giving to air on KWQC-TV6 on Saturday, Nov. 21 at 10 a.m., co-hosted by Paula Sands. There will be select tree designs, ornaments, gift shop items, and VIP baskets available for bid and purchase at www.qcfestivaloftrees.com or at the Quad City Arts Rock Island Gallery (1715 2 nd Ave.), from Nov. 21 to 29.

Other Festival favorites include Toy Tree donations for Toys for Tots, Honor Tree Ornaments and Festival “Exclusive” Isabel Bloom sculptures.

The Nov. 21 Holiday Special and Day of Giving on KWQC will feature coverage from past Festival parades, Centerstage entertainment from Moline’s Spotlight Theatre stage, a special message from Santa and more. Quad City Arts invites the public to make a gift to the Day of Giving on the same day, in which many donations will be matched. Contributions will be accepted through the end of December. A donation of just $10 gives one student an arts education experience for one year.

Trammell says every year, proceeds from Festival of Trees go to support local arts programming in our community. 

“The exciting is that we are going to be able to expose the community to our gallery, and they’re going to come over to Rock Island and see the incredible artwork we have on display right now, and go shopping with us, to get gifts and holiday tchotchkes and things like that for themselves and family members, and also being able to support the arts by coming here and seeing all that we have.”

Compared to 160 Christmas trees at last year’s RiverCenter festival, they have five designers creating Christmas trees at the gallery, and eight door designs -- all up for auction. People can see the designs and VIP gift baskets in person, but will have to bid online, starting Nov. 21.

Trammell appreciated the Spotlight Theatre hosting the filmed entertainment this year.

“It was really incredible to utilize that space; the Spotlight is beautiful. It worked perfectly for what we needed. We were able to do a safe and socially distanced recording session with KWQC. We got excellent video footage of those acts that we’ll be able to feature on the holiday special.”

While there won’t be a 20-foot Toy Tree this year, RE/MAX River Cities is helping continue the tradition by accepting donations of new and unwrapped toys until Nov. 30 at either RE/MAX River Cities location - 900 36th Avenue, Moline, or 4555 Utica Ridge Road in  Bettendorf. They will be given to the local Toys for Tots.

“The nice thing is that folks who are not feeling comfortable to leave the house or go inside businesses can go and shop their Amazon Wish List, and that is a contact-free donation. You’re able to purchase that item from Amazon and they will ship that directly to the RE/MAX River Cities offices, which is kind of nice.” 

Festival volunteers also have made a “cookie caravan” possible, who will deliver cookies and sing carols to residents of senior-citizen facilities in the area.

“We recognize a lot of those folks are probably feeling lonely this time of year. They’re not able to have visitors, and their families have seen them through a window, so we wanted to make sure they felt seen and felt special. 

For more information on the pop-up gift shop and window display hours, and Festival overall, visit www.qcfestivaloftrees.com.

A native of Detroit, Herb Trix began his radio career as a country-western disc jockey in Roswell, New Mexico (“KRSY, your superkicker in the Pecos Valley”), in 1978. After a stint at an oldies station in Topeka, Kansas (imagine getting paid to play “Louie Louie” and “Great Balls of Fire”), he wormed his way into news, first in Topeka, and then in Freeport Illinois.