Festival of Trees to bring back cookies with Santa, include new events such as trivia night and more

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A series of Lawrence family-favorite holiday happenings will soon return, but in a new location and with new nightlife events added to the lineup. 

Unique tree decorations, ugly sweaters and Santa Claus himself will be out in full force for the 2023 Festival of Trees, the primary annual fundraising event for the O’Connell Children’s Shelter. 

The nonprofit organization serves Douglas County young people who need residential care and stabilization services, truancy prevention and more

All of this year’s events will be held at Maceli’s Banquet Hall, 1031 New Hampshire St. 

The main event is a slew of donated trees, wreaths and gingerbread houses, all with unique themes and designs, made by businesses, families and local organizations. The trees are put on display and then auctioned off at the end of the week. Last year’s event featured trees dressed with a wide array of themed designs, including KU basketball and flamingo themes. 

The trees will be on display from Friday, Nov. 24 through Sunday, Dec. 3. Organizers suggest a donation of $5 for each adult and child ages 6 and up. Viewing hours are below, and this year’s festival includes some viewing time set aside for seniors only. 

The week also includes other festive events, such as holiday trivia, an ugly sweater contest and multiple appearances by Santa Claus. 

Kids of all ages are welcome to have cookies with Santa from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 27 and 28. Organizers suggest a donation of $5 for adults and children older than 3, or $20 for families of four or more people.

Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times 3-year-old Saylah Sanders of Lawrence was eager to pose with Santa during the 2022 Festival of Trees.

There will also be a breakfast with Santa from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Nov. 25. It’s $17 per adult, $13.75 per kid, and $5 from every meal goes to the O’Connell Children’s Shelter. Tickets will be available at the door if possible, but organizers warn that it will sell out. Tickets can be purchased at this link

There’s also a Christmas Parade breakfast set for 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 2. Tickets are available at this link

A slate of new events are geared more toward grownups. Cocktails and Carols, for instance, is set for 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 25. It will feature a musical performance by the Marvelous Mistletones. There’s a suggested donation of $10 per person at the door. 


New this year will be the Holiday Trivia and Ugly Sweater Contest led by Scotty Mac. A team of four can enter for $100, and each additional contestant is $25. “Winning and worst teams earn prizes,” according to event organizers. That’s set for 7 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 29; tickets are available at this link

Also new this year will be MsAmanda Love’s Holiday Holi“Slay” Spectacular. Doors open at 8 p.m., and the show is set for 9 to 11 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1. Beer, wine, cocktails, holiday beverages and Christmas cookies will be available for purchase. Tickets are $10 and available at this link

Festival of Trees viewing hours at Maceli’s are as follows: 

 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 24
 Noon to 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 25
 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 26
 1:30 to 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 27
 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 28
 Senior viewing hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; general public viewing hours from 2 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 29
 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30
 Noon to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1
 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2
 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3 

The trees will be auctioned off at an auction party Saturday, Dec. 2. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the program starts at 7 p.m. at Maceli’s. Tickets are $65 per person for general admission, and VIP tickets are $125 per person. Answers to FAQs about the party and auction are available here.

Further event details and suggested donations can be found on the event website. Learn more about the O’Connell Children’s Shelter on its website, oconnellchildrensshelter.org.

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Note: A date in this post has been corrected.

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