Bringing freshly cut greenery into the house at the onset of winter has symbolized the promise of the coming spring in many cultures since ancient times. This holiday season, some 35 to 40 million evergreen trees will be purchased and decorated in the United States alone. Adding a little tinsel, some lights, and a few bulbs to a fir or spruce is one thing, but get professional designers working on a tree, and they take it to another level entirely.
This is evidenced during the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art (MoA)'s annual fundraiser, the Festival of Trees. Begun in 1987 by museum trustees and patterned after similar festivals in New York City and San Francisco, the event features the display, sale, and auction of more than 100 decked-out Christmas trees, wreaths, and menorahs dreamed up by top South Florida designers and florists. Creators have complete design latitude, and buyers get more than your standard-issue decorations. One of the most notable trees was a 1990 replica of a tree created for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which featured dozens of individually handcrafted ornaments. Last year's tallest tree was a dizzying 12 feet, and the priciest tree last year cost $6000. (It included a set of Waterford crystal and a case of French wine.) Some trees even come with gift certificates tied to their boughs or toy trains chugging around their bases.
The festival has raised more than $1 million for the museum since its inception, and organizers plan to add another chunk of cash to that amount on November 29 and 30; that's when this year's crop of elegant and innovative trees goes on display at the Design Center of the Americas (DCOTA) in Dania Beach as part of a new partnership between the interior-design complex and the museum.
"DCOTA has entered into an alliance with the museum as a way of giving back to the community," explains Ana Salazar, DCOTA's senior marketing manager. "We thought it would be a beautiful setting and would attract people from both the museum and design worlds."
In its new digs, the festival will occupy the 500,000-square-foot design center's four-story, naturally lit atrium with marble floors. Trees are unveiled November 29 at noon and remain on view until 4 p.m.; a champagne gala and auction are set for 6 that evening. On November 30 the festival is open to the public again, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with all remaining trees and holiday decorations available for purchase.
"With the phenomenal design sense and ingenuity of the artists at DCOTA, I think we will see some of our most innovative trees yet," says MoA marketing director Glen Miller.