Last year a great concept for a fundraiser came to San Diego that was different, fun, beautiful, creative, and helped support a lot of people in need. It was a huge success. The place was packed, and most every tree received a new home that evening. Bobby Gordon, founder and creator of Festival of Trees, introduced our community to this extraordinary Christmas in November event. He saw an opportunity in our LGBTQ+ community for a holiday-themed event that could benefit local non-profit organizations while kicking off the winter holidays. People came dressed up, drank, and ate delicious hors d’oeuvres as they walked through the parade of trees set up in the walkway of Inside Out (1642 University Avenue, San Diego, CA).
I am so excited to announce that our community will enjoy this event again this year. I believe this is going to become an annual signature event every November. Bobby elaborated, “San Diego was beyond receptive. They totally embrace this new concept and loved the idea that having an already decorated Christmas tree to bid on, and then have it delivered to your home, and set up was such a unique idea. The best part was people had a great time at the event and were compassionate about knowing they were giving back to such a great cause.”
The event committee again chose Being Alive San Diego HIV/AIDS Services this year as their beneficiary. In addition to keeping the impact of the fundraising efforts local within our community, Being Alive is one of our oldest HIV/AIDS organizations that is still in existence. Their mission is to deliver quality and compassionate services to people affected by HIV and AIDS. They continue to provide medications, preventative resources, education, job training, healthcare, and access to other resources. The committee is confident that their chosen beneficiary will be able to use the funds raised to continue their efforts. The selection committee was comprised of last year’s event volunteers and the Board of Directors for BGCA (Big Gay California), a federal non-profit organization that produces the annual Festival of Trees in San Diego.
Shannon Wagner, Executive Director of Being Alive expressed her thoughts, “The last couple of years have been difficult for everyone – for members of our community living with HIV/AIDS and dealing with poverty. These times can be even darker and more frightening. All of us at Being Alive San Diego are excited about this year’s Festival of Trees and grateful to Bobby Gordon, his co-host, and the many volunteers for producing a beautiful event and giving hope to some of our most vulnerable community members.”
BGCA’s mission is to help aid and support the LGBTQ+ and allied communities in California, including but not limited to HIV/AIDS, suicide prevention, health promotion, youth engagement and support, and Transgender and other under-represented populations. Being Alive’s mission aligns perfectly with BGCA’s mission to make a local impact in these areas for our local community
Last year, the fabulous Mariam T and Moe Girton co-hosted with Bobby to present the very first event. This year, the amazing Chad Michaels (RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars Season 1 winner) will join Moe Girton, General Manger, and partner with MO’s Universe, along with Bobby Gordon returning as co-host for the second annual event. We extend huge thank you to all three of these super stars in our community making this event happen again this year.
Paris Quion (General Manager of Inside Out and Partner at Mo’s Universe) is happy to invite this event back and exclaimed, “Festival of Trees is such a great addition to our yearlong community events in Hillcrest that I know everyone will continue to enjoy and support for years and years to come. Showcasing a combination of what our community and the holidays are all about which is a simple expression of love!”
The committee has been so fortunate to witness such an overwhelming response from the community, both last year and this year, to help support and be involved. Individuals, designers, and local businesses can either donate to the silent auction, become a financial sponsor to help underwrite the fixed expenses of the event, or they can create and donate a tree for auction. So far this year they are on track for about twenty artificial trees donated and expertly decorated by local designers and businesses throughout Hillcrest and the surrounding areas. These trees will be available at the live auction, and the lucky winners will have their trees delivered to their homes by the San Diego Armada Rugby Football Club and Junk Medics the following day, just in time for their holiday celebrations. Sponsorship of a tree, silent auction item, or financial donation provides local businesses the opportunity for significant promotion via social media, their website, and at the event where they directly spotlight their contributions and donations.
All trees, silent auction, and other items are only available during the event. However, those who cannot attend in person or who may be out of town just before Thanksgiving may participate online by either making a direct donation via our website, or by participating in our Travel Raffle. The Travel Raffle features tickets at one hundred dollars each, with a maximum of one hundred tickets sold, increasing the winning odds. The lucky winner will receive a cruise package for two which includes a balcony room for three-four nights out of the port of Los Angeles. The Travel Raffle is the only prize you can win if you do not attend in person the night of the event, and they are very pleased to be working with travel agent Bryan Tivenen to bring this opportunity back again this year. Travel Raffle tickets are available online and at the event until they sell the maximum of one hundred tickets, so I recommend individuals buy Travel Raffle tickets early if they’re interested before they sell out!
There are so many ways for individuals and businesses to get involved. They need, and are asking for, volunteers to help manage the silent auction, sell raffle tickets on-site, help with set-up and tear-down, and related on-site management of the event. Bobby mentioned, “We are still accepting and seeking financial sponsors to help us maximize the amount of money we can donate to Being Alive San Diego HIV/AIDS Services, because every dollar we raise is another dollar that helps us underwrite the hard costs of the event, providing more money that goes directly to our chosen beneficiary. We’re also eager to receive silent auction donations (i.e., gift baskets, artwork, wine baskets, gift cards, creative items, and more) to make a robust silent auction with amazing offerings for our guests to help support this cause. And, of course, if someone has a fabulous and creative idea for a tree, they will welcome their tree sponsorship!”
Beyond the naughty Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the naughty elf returning this year, the entertainment and emcees will also be the events co-hosts; and don’t forget the fabulous Chad Michaels from RuPaul’s Drag Race. Of course, they will have holiday music playing with many other opportunities to be entertained throughout the event. The VIP Experience is sponsored by Tito’s Handmade Vodka and Little Miss Brewing Company, and those who purchase a VIP ticket get guaranteed seats, an exclusive VIP tree auction before the general event, the official tree lighting ceremony, and more! Inside OUT has generously offered to provide light charcuterie hors d’oeuvres throughout the event for all attendees.
This is the holiday kickoff party of the year for the LGBTQ+ community, so do not miss it! Tickets went on sale in early October with early-bird discounts through Halloween, but they will still be available online until the day-of the event, and at the door, if they do not sell out. Individuals can get involved as a sponsor, donor, and/or as a volunteer. To buy tickets online go to: festivaloftreessd.org and those interested in getting involved can email [email protected]. As we get closer, people can follow them on Instagram and Facebook (@festivaloftreessd) to get a preview of the trees and silent auction items. It is exciting to see everyone working together for a common cause to not only kick off the holidays, but to support such an important cause in our local community.
I attended this event last year and found it to be refreshing, creative, and brilliant as a great new fun way to raise money in our community. I asked Bobby, “What makes you proud of this event you created for San Diego and what would you like to see this event become in the future?”
“What I am most proud of is how quickly the community embraced this event, ensuring that Festival of Trees will now be an annual event. The outpouring of support from business owners, elected leaders, and community members has just been amazing and something that I could not have predicted a year ago when I came up with the idea to launch an annual holiday-themed fundraising event for the community. It is one of the few events we have in Hillcrest where all the businesses work together to make the event a major success. As we establish Festival of Trees as an annual event, I would love to see more allied businesses become involved as sponsors, including those outside of the Hillcrest neighborhood. Our impact can grow regionally as the event grows. I would love to have the problem of being sold out with a wait list not only to attend, but also receive so many offers to do trees that we have to create a wait list! Those are good problems to have in future years,” says Bobby.
I am very proud to call Bobby a great friend. I believe he has a heart of gold filled with so much compassion to help and give back to all human beings. He is a great addition to our community and those who get to know him feel this generosity and are drawn to join him in his quest to include people in this amazing journey. A huge thank you to the brilliant and talented Chad Michaels who has never shied away from giving back with his talents, time, and money, and Moe Girton, who shines as an example of love and constant positive energy that she always spreads amongst us all.
I invite everyone of you to join our San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, city and county officials, myself, and the entire community to help kick off the first Christmas Holidays event of the year with fun, class, charity and with new and old friends. Save the date for the Second Annual Festival of Trees, on Sunday, November 20, 2022, at Inside OUT located at 1642 University Avenue, San Diego, California. The VIP event will start at 4:00pm and the general event will be from 5:00pm till 8:00pm. Pricing through November 19, 2022, the day before the event: General Admission: $35 and the VIP Experience, sponsored by Tito’s Handmade Vodka & Little Miss Brewing, with VIP tables and guaranteed seating also available (individual seats, tables of 4, or more) are $100.
If you cannot attend but would still like to donate or buy an auction ticket please go to the website (festivaloftreessd.org) which has a link for direct donations, and they will offer the same opportunity in person for those who are interested in making a direct donation to help support the event and Being Alive.
It is so amazing and heartwarming to know that buying a fully decorated Christmas tree could help those living with HIV/AIDS, and can be given that extra special love just because you cared. What a great gift of life to share! See you all there and Happy Holidays to all of you.