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Festival of Trees to go virtual for the first time in its 37-year history

“We're still hoping to capture the essence of the Christmas spirit or the holidays,” said Jill Aldape, VP of philanthropy at Saint Alphonsus.

BOISE, Idaho — Like so many things this year, COVID-19 is changing the way people will experience Saint Alphonsus’ 37th annual Festival of Trees

Instead of walking around and taking in the bright lights and sights of Christmas, starting on Nov. 19, folks will be able to check out the lavishly-decorated trees at home, through a computer screen.

“We're going virtual this year, for the first time in 37 years,” said Jill Aldape, vice president of philanthropy for Saint Alphonsus.

Despite going online, organizers still hope one thing will stay the same.

“We're still hoping to capture the essence of the Christmas spirit or the holidays,” Aldape said.

In a typical year, 25,000 people visit the huge display at the Boise Centre and 2,000 of those are volunteers, Aldape told KTVB. 

The event raises between $300,000 and $700,000 each year.

“Donors have helped Saint Alphonsus build something or get new equipment, but this year it's less tangible,” Aldape said.

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Less tangible, as in this year's proceeds will benefit people and programs impacted by COVID-19. Those include healthcare workers, front line workers, and funding for innovations in telehealth, everything from mental health to financial support assistance. 

“With that said, we exist to serve our community, so we still want to nurture our clinical education programs for our colleagues and community and partners,” Aldape said. 

She added that Santa will still be present for the Festival of Trees, but visits with him will just be virtual. Parents will also be able to get customized videos for Santa visits and it wouldn't be limited to the Treasure Valley.

“It's a different experience and we're not pretending that it's the same, so participation will be different,” Aldape said. “We also have to look at the bright side - we can reach people who aren’t necessarily located geographically in the Treasure Valley that we've never been able to reach before.”

The Festival of Trees will run Nov. 19-30.

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