Fantasy of Trees: All that glitter worth weight in gold

Sherri Gardner HowellFeature, Our Town Arts

Fantasy of Trees, the annual event that benefits East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, has a lot of sparkling trees, a lot of glittery wreaths and a lot of dazzling room decor.

It also has a lot of heartwarming stories.

At the preview party on Tuesday night, volunteers who had worked tirelessly for three days pulling together all the magic were pointing with deserved pride at the results of their work.

Lauren Freeman was turning heads in her beautiful gown. “It was a great excuse to wear my prom dress again,” said Lauren.

Guests in glittery finery – from prom dresses to Christmas sweaters to sequined poinsettia-themed dresses – gave high praise for the Winter Wonderland theme.

Other stories touched the hearts of organizers, volunteers and attendees. Margaret Hale Rigsby, owner of the design firm Taylor and Huie, remembered her triplet girls, born at 34 weeks, spending two weeks in NICU at Children’s Hospital as she decorated her beautiful tree, done in a traditional theme.

Bryan Cody and his mother, Trista, were dressed to the nines as they celebrated all the wonderful treatment Bryan, who has sickle cell disease, receives at the hospital.

Even the houses in the Gingerbread Village had stories to tell. Farragut High School teacher Lynsey Barnhill Flatford led her students in the creation of beautiful, intricate gingerbread houses and churches for Fantasy. Her motivation? Flatford’s daughter, Avery, now 18, has cystic fibrosis and has received her care at ETCH.

This is the 34th Fantasy of Trees, which is open through Sunday at the Knoxville Convention Center. Hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. except Thanksgiving Day (3 to 8 p.m.) and Sunday (noon to 6 p.m.). Cost without discounts (KCS School Coupon Book has one): $8 for adults, $4 for children ages 4 to 12; under 4, free. Online: $20 for a four-pack of tickets.

Joyce Holben looks festive in her poinsettia-themed dress. She has been a Fantasy of Trees volunteer for more than eight years.

Merry Spafford of Loudon, who has won awards at the National Gingerbread House Competition at Omni Grove Park Inn, calls this Fantasy of Trees winner Joy to the World.












One of the gingerbread houses from Farragut High School teacher Lynsey Barnhill Flatford’s Nutrition Across the Lifespan class.

Karen Mullins, Joyce Haynes and Debbie Dean have been helping out in numerous leadership positions at Fantasy of Trees for 20-plus years.












Mom and dad weren’t sure how Henry was going to like Santa at Fantasy of Trees, and the 2-year-old looked skeptical at first.

In the end, he came through with a big smile, just like his brother, Bain, age 4.

Marty Chaney and Charlie Dunlap have been volunteering with Fantasy of Trees for 25-plus years.

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