Those already in the Christmas spirit were able to enjoy ornate holiday displays — and visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus — during a kick-off to the season Sunday at Festival of Trees in Santa Maria.
The two-week Altrusa of the Central Coast event, which raises money for local scholarships and grants, allows area residents a chance to win one of 35 trees decorated and donated by community sponsors.
The festive couple gave each child a book as part of Altrusa’s ongoing effort to promote literacy. They also listened to Christmas wish lists, and posed for pictures when children were brave enough to meet them.
Altrusa of the Central Coast president Melinda Aguirre said the ninth annual festival was in its first year at the new location.
Also different this year is that the nonprofit organization will dole out scholarships in the spring instead of the fall in an effort to raise more funds.
“We’re hoping to generate a lot more,” Aguirre said. “We really enjoy it. They love just to give back. We’re all dedicated the next two weeks.”
Residents can buy a chance to win a tree for $1 per ticket, or six tickets for $5. A winning ticket will be drawn for each decorated tree and gifts that are under it at 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2.
Doors will be open every day, except Thanksgiving, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. There is no charge to enter.
The fundraiser, which brought in $40,000 last year, also lets attendees vote for their favorite large and small tree, and then awards that tree’s donor a plaque, Aguirre said.
Community members walked up and down the rows Sunday to size up trees, most of which had gifts tucked underneath.
Sierra Banks, 8, delivered some of her family’s 33 tickets into numbered, slotted boxes beneath each desired tree.
Her mom, Deanna Banks, said the Orcutt family is hoping to snag a larger Christmas tree because their family is growing.
“We have a real little one,” Banks said. “We’ll be back. We’re determined.”
Click here for more information on Altrusa of the Central Coast.