Winter Wonderland in the Quad Cities
Every year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, more than 40,000 people gather in downtown Davenport for the largest helium balloon parade in the Midwest. In its 28th year, the annual parade helps kick off the holiday season in the Quad Cities and is the official start of one of the area’s oldest and proudest holiday traditions — the Festival of Trees.
Where Holiday Magic Comes to Life
In 1986, the Festival of Trees was begun to inspire those impacted by the economic depression, bring the community together and celebrate the holiday season. Originally a two-day event, the Festival of Trees has since transformed into an extravaganza that draws attention from across the Midwest.
“I love the Festival of Trees because I feel it puts us on the map,” said Katie Gilson, Quad City Arts marketing & sponsorship director. “It has helped showcase the amazing culture and community we have here and is something so many of us are proud to call our own.”
Today, the 70,000-square-foot Rover Center in downtown Davenport becomes a winter wonderland decorated with displays created by over 150 designers. Featuring everything from wreaths and gingerbread creations, to miniature tree displays and stockings— even the biggest Scrooge who visits will be filled with the holiday spirit.
“It is a wonderful thing to get behind as far as community event,” said Gilson. “Everyone loves the holidays, and this has become a part of that holiday tradition for so many. When something becomes a tradition in this community, people just can’t miss it.”
Filling the Quad Cities' Stocking for a Good Cause
The Festival of Trees has a significant impact on the area’s economic growth. Recognized as one of the top events of its kind in North America, the festival has a $2.5 million economic impact on the community and has raised more than $7 million in support of the local arts.
“All proceeds benefit the Quad City Arts and local arts programming,” said Gilson. “I really love the fact that every dime goes back to the local arts programs and our schools.”
For 11 days, the Festival of Trees is attended by more than 30,000 people while hosting a wide variety of events. “For our festival, you don't have to love the arts and you don't have to love our organization to want to attend,” said Gilson. “It’s just so great and fun for families - and a wonderful holiday tradition in our community.”
2019 Festival of Trees Special Events:
- Silent Disco, November 21: A new event, this will take place the Thursday before the Festival of Trees. Attendees can enjoy a sneak peek of all the designer displays while three live DJs battle for their attention at the Quad Cities’ first-ever silent disco party.
- Grand Premiere, November 22: The Quad Cities’ “premiere” holiday event, this celebrates the opening of the Festival of Trees and serves as an opportunity for attendees to purchase or bid on custom designed displays while enjoying culinary creations.
- Holiday Parade, Saturday November 23: This free event features large helium character balloons, floats, dance groups, bands, antique cars, pageant queens and a visit from Santa Claus himself!
- Teddy Bear Tea, November 24: Children are invited to bring their favorite plush toy to the adorable Teddy Bear Tea. During this event, kids and their adult guests can enjoy a special tea party experience with ice cream sundaes, cookie plate decorating and an appearance by the festival’s costumed characters.
- Sugar Plum Ball, November 26: This father/daughter dance is the most popular ticketed event and is attended by approximately 800 fathers and daughters. The Sugar Plum Ball consists of dressing up, enjoying a lovely dinner and dancing.
- Celebrity Lunch, November 27: During this business to business networking party, Quad City celebrities become waiters for a day and entertain guests by showcasing their talents for tips.