2020 Festival of Trees: A virtual spotlight on local charities


The Riata Ranch Christmas Tree was judged Best of Show in the 2020 Festival of Trees staged at St. Anthony Retreat. The tree and auction items netted $1,825 for Riata Ranch International of Three Rivers in the event’s first ever virtual auction.

5th Annual Festival of Trees is a virtual success

After a run of four successful years, no one was quite sure what to expect during a pandemic for the 2020 Festival of Trees staged by St Anthony Retreat. There would be no in-person bidding, no Santa Claus, nor the showcasing of local food and beverage vendors, and no huge crowd that gathered for a holiday celebration — all in the name of giving.  

At St. Anthony Retreat there is a new event chair of the Festival of Trees, Julia Fracker, who this year, had one tough act to follow — the 2019 event was off the charts wonderful and raised unprecedented dollars. 

The annual event is built around the auctioning of Christmas trees decorated by local charities who pocket the proceeds from the sale of their trees. Hosted by St. Anthony Retreat to spotlight local nonprofits, the event was launched in 2016 by Darlene Mayfield, the former Marketing Director at St. Anthony Retreat. Mayfield was fittingly feted at the 2019 Festival of Trees choosing to make her retirement official in front of the packed house that attended last year’s event. 

Mayfield, who came to St. Anthony Retreat after two decades in marketing with the Visalia Chamber of Commerce, was intimately involved in the highly successful Visalia Chamber Christmas Tree Auction. In fact, for 17 years, Mayfield sat on the committee that staged the Visalia Chamber Christmas Tree Auction. 

In 2015, Mayfield left the Visalia Chamber and became the marketing director at St. Anthony Retreat. With the Retreat looking for more ways to involve the Three Rivers community, it was a natural for Mayfield to mimic her experience with the Visalia Chamber.

“I wanted to model the event after the Visalia Chamber Christmas Tree Auction and help the local nonprofits,” Mayfield said. “The key was to educate the volunteers to pre-sell their trees, charge an affordable gate fee, and have a free preview for all who wanted to come see the trees and learn about the nonprofits.” 

The 2019 Festival of Trees set records in attendance and epitomized what the event could aspire be — the signature holiday gathering in Three Rivers.

Fast forward through 2020 and it became obvious that Julia Fracker, the heir to the Festival of Trees, would have to go virtual or cancel like the Visalia Chamber did with their Christmas Tree auction event. To Fracker’s credit, and to the credit of all the staff at St. Anthony Retreat, the event was a remarkable display of virtual giving.

Fracker summarized the 2020 event:       

“We received a total of $17,340 and there were 278 bids all together.  There were 90 people bidding online.  We also had a following via Facebook.  Each night during the event, we aired a video online and had anywhere from 300-600 views on Facebook and YouTube.

In addition to the amount we raised through the event, we also had a few sponsors: Roche Oil, Cardoza Company, and Family HealthCare Network.  The sponsors covered all of our expenses and every dollar raised was donated.

Our plan for next year is to host a virtual/live hybrid event.  We hope to begin the virtual component in early November and the live event is scheduled for Thursday, November 18, 2021.  The theme next year will be Santa’s Workshop.

The purpose of the Festival of Trees is not primarily to be a fundraiser for the retreat center, but to shine a light on and support local charities and the good works they do.  We also love to bring the community together for fun and fellowship.  It is designed to be a joyous and festive event for all and we indeed captured this spirit during our first virtual Festival of Trees.”

In the true spirit of Christmas watch these 3R News videos and see your friends and neighbors who represent these local charities who are there to help those in need. Keep that spirit of giving in your heart and in 2020 keep it local.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.