Brookings Arts Council celebrates 25 years of Festival of Trees


Hollie Leggett, Graphic Designer (She/her)

Take a break and enjoy some cheer at the Mid-Century Modern themed Festival of Trees hosted by the Brookings Arts Council. 

For 25 years, the BAC has hosted the Festival of Trees, a free event where local organizations can sign up to decorate a tree. 

Each year, the council picks a different theme for the trees that are submitted, last year’s theme being Snowflakes. 

Executive Director of the BAC, Ashley Ragsdale, came up with this year’s theme: Mid-Century modern.

“I like mid-century modern furniture and vintage stuff,” she said. “I decided we’re doing really oversized ornaments that go up and down the walls of the Arts Council.”

Although the theme of this year’s festival is mid-century modern, many organizations decorate their trees based on something that they want to promote or something that is happening in the community. 

“We have a theme, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow that theme,” Ragsdale said. 

Some of the organizations who are participating this year include the Children’s Museum, the Public Library, Habitat for Humanity and McCrory Gardens. 

The Public Library incorporated literature to the mid-century modern theme by basing their tree off of the Dr. Suess books. 

“We decided to do our tree in the style of Dr. Seuss because he wrote his books between this time period,”Mikaela Neubauer, community services coordinator at the Brookings Public Library, said. “I think it really embodies that optimism and the modern look of the era.”

On most weekends in December, local music teachers bring students to play their instruments in this space. 

“I started working here last year,” gallery assistant at the Brookings Arts Council, Kirsten Schmidt, said, “but I’m from Brookings, so I’ve played piano for The Festival of Trees for a long time before that, too.”

This year, The Festival of Trees has adjusted hours to allow people to spread out their visit. Usually they have a hot chocolate bar, but this year they will not be having that due to the pandemic. 

“We will have some trees outside if people don’t feel safe going into buildings,” Ragsdale said. “We require masks, but some people are hesitant and we definitely understand that and still want them to enjoy the holidays.”

Along with the decorated trees, there is also a local artisan shop in the Brookings Arts Council called the Holly Leaf Gift Shop. 

“We have things from paintings and prints, to ceramic and jewelry makers too,” Ragsdale said. “We have some unofficial jackrabbit paintings that come through here, as well. Everything from holiday items, to just prints, from artists and painters that live around here.”

The Festival of Trees has 15 trees all with unique decorations. Don’t put your holiday cheer on hold; come out and see what the local organizations and artists have to offer. 

“I’m always super excited to see how people have taken their organizations and condensed them down into a tree and something that represents what they are doing in town,” Neubauer said. “It’s always lovely how much effort these organizations put in.”

Festival of Trees open until Jan. 2 

  • Thursday, 6-8 p.m.
  • Friday, 12-6 p.m.
  • Saturday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
  • Sunday, 1:30 – 4:30 p.m.