SPRINGFIELD – Bringing a “new holiday tradition” to downtown Springfield, the Memorial Medical Center Foundation will unveil the Memorial Holiday Fest, replacing Memorial’s Festival of Trees, said an event organizer.
“The foundation made the difficult decision to sunset Memorial’s Festival of Trees. We wanted to design an event that would promote diversity and inclusion and would address the many changes occurring in planning a holiday event in uncertain times,” said Melissa Hansen Schmadeke, executive director of the Memorial Medical Center Foundation. “That led to the birth of the Memorial Holiday Fest. We’re excited to introduce this new holiday tradition, which will include many of the delightful, time-honored traditions that families have come to expect.”
The holiday fest will be free and held on two consecutive Saturdays, Nov. 27 and Dec. 4. Held in conjunction with Downtown Springfield Inc.’s Holiday Walk, the Memorial Holiday Fest will allow “visitors to experience an extra dose of fest magic on these two days as part of the Holiday Walk experience,” said Hansen Schmadeke.
Foundation officials are calling on kid artists 13 years old or younger to design a mascot for the first Memorial Holiday Fest. Entries can be submitted during September; the winner will be contacted by Oct. 4.
Entries can be created with any medium on standard 8.5-by-11-inch paper. Artists must include their name, age, address and phone number with their entries. The artist whose mascot is selected will receive four passes to Kidzeum in downtown Springfield and will be recognized publicly.
Submissions should be sent to the Memorial Medical Center Foundation, either by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to MMC Foundation, Mail Code 61, 701 N. First St., Springfield, IL 62781.
The Memorial Holiday Fest will feature many of the “beloved features that people enjoyed in the past, including our beautifully decorated gingerbread houses, trees and wreaths,” said Hansen Schmadeke.
Other familiar elements carrying over to the Memorial Holiday Fest include visits with Santa, the Gingerbread Village, the Sockefeller Skating Rink, and arts and crafts. The theme of the holiday fest is “A Season for Caring.”
Some of the new offerings include horse-and-carriage rides and a “warming tree” with scarves, hats and mittens in the YMCA.
Event organizers said they will constantly monitor current COVID-19 conditions and will adjust any plans for the Memorial Holiday Fest to ensure the community’s safety.
During its 31-year run, Memorial’s Festival of Trees, held in the Orr Building on the Illinois State Fairgrounds, raised more than $5.3 million for health-related projects and programs for Memorial Health System and the Springfield community. Between 30,000 and 35,000 people visited the nine-day event, which showcased more than 200 decorated trees and wreaths.
The Memorial Medical Center Foundation is the fundraising arm of the nonprofit hospital. Earlier this year, the foundation’s annual distribution of grant funding awarded more than $600,000 to health-related projects in the community.