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Annual Visalia Christmas Tree Auction

Nov 29, 2018 11:00AM ● By Jordan Venema

O' Christmas Tree

December 2018
Story by Jordan Venema
Photos by Andrea Camarena


NOW THAT THE HOLIDAY SEASON has arrived, soon homes will be decked with ornaments and, of course, Christmas trees. Other than the reason behind the holiday itself, the Christmas tree is almost essential, at least nearly as much as the spirit of giving. But the two can go hand in hand, as the Visalia Chamber of Commerce has proven with its 38-year-old tradition of the Christmas Tree Auction.

This December 7 at the Visalia Convention Center marks nearly four decades that the black-tie event has introduced nonprofits to the community through its live auction of elaborately decorated Christmas trees. According to Gail Zurek, president and CEO of the Visalia Chamber of Commerce, the event has raised $4 million for nonprofits since the event began.

“Going to an event like this allows you to give to a number of different charities in one night,” says Zurek. “The auction also raises their profile and gives them a platform to increase their exposure, as well as giving them a platform to raise money.” 

The backbone of the event is the live Christmas tree auction, which this year will include at least 13 different charities. But these aren’t your typical trees.

“These trees are absolutely awe-inspiring. People are being much more artistic, and this is a town of artists. I am always blown away by the artistic interpretation,” says Zurek, adding that the interpretation of “tree” can sometimes be loose. Past trees have been built out of orange crates or even included a cocktail cart, says Zurek.

Typically, the tree and ornaments and decorations are donated to the nonprofits, and all proceeds of the auction go directly to the charity. In fact, says Zurek, sometimes the trees can be auctioned multiple times over.

“It’s not uncommon for somebody to put up the money and then put it up for auction again.”

In addition to the live Christmas tree auction, as many as 20 nonprofits will participate in a large silent auction.

While all money raised goes directly to the nonprofits, the $80 general admission ticket goes towards putting on the event, hosted by the Visalia Chamber of Commerce. The ticket price also includes free wine and heavy appetizers, and entertainment with a DJ.

Last year the event began pairing caterers with specific trees.

“We partnered our restaurant and caterers with a charity, and the food surrounded the tree they were auctioning off,” explains Zurek, adding that caterers usually developed a theme with the food that related to the tree or nonprofit. This year, caterers will include Café 225 and the Vartanians of Vintage Press. 

While this is definitely the kind of event where you’ll find guests dressed to the nines, that won’t stop people from letting loose and having a good time, says Zurek. This year, the Mt. Whitney marching band will announce the live auction with a performance, “and the wine is flowing by this point,” Zurek says with a laugh. “There’s always something fun, and we leave space for that.” Even if that means allowing guests to perform a dance, which she says has happened. •


Visalia Christmas Tree Auction • 7pm Dec. 7

Visalia Convention Center(559) 734-5876

www.visaliachamber.org/christmastree