By Mindie Burgoyne

The Mid-Atlantic’s largest holiday-themed festival happens on Thanksgiving weekend at the Maryland Fairgrounds in Timonium. The Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Festival of Trees is a mammoth three-day celebration of the holidays that features more than 600 trees, boutique shopping, activities for the kids and live entertainment for the whole family. As its website touts, “If Santa had a theme park, this would be it!”

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Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Festival of Trees
Maryland State Fairgrounds
2200 York Road
Timonium, Md. 21903
(443) 923-7301
Nov. 25, 26, & 27, 2011 (Thanksgiving Weekend)
Hours: Friday & Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., & Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Price: $12 Adults, $6 for seniors and kids (5-12). Kids 4 and under are free. Tickets are
purchased at the door. $2 off by purchasing online

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For 22 years, the Kennedy Krieger Institute has sponsored this Festival of Trees celebration. It is the largest event of its kind on the East Coast. Attracting 45,000 visitors over the three-day period, the Festival of Trees transforms the 150,000 square foot fairgrounds building into a North Pole landscape of lights, sparkle, trees, toys, decorations and fun. Kids are entertained by visiting Santa, mailing their wish lists to the North Pole, taking a train ride, racing remote-controlled cars, jumping in the moon bounce or petting live animals in the petting zoo. Live entertainment is featured on two separate stages throughout the three days. The entertainment runs the gamut from magicians, music groups, storytellers to jugglers, Gymboree, Irish dance and ballet.

Adults have the opportunity to get a jump-start on holiday shopping and decorating. More than 600 seven foot and two foot tall trees are decorated by local people and organizations and then put for sale to raise funds for the Kennedy Krieger Institute. There are also wreaths, gingerbread houses and crafts from more than 100 boutique vendors for sale throughout the festival.

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The colossal landscape of holiday activities, decorations and entertainment can almost overwhelm an attendee. People agree that you could walk around for hours and still not see everything. Memories are made at the Festival of Trees. Children will remember writing letters to Santa and mailing them in a special mailbox, seeing reindeer (ponies with reindeer antlers), riding the magical carousel and the endless sparkle of lights and glitter on a backdrop of green and white.

The Festival of Trees is sponsored by the Kennedy Krieger Institute for the purpose of raising funds to benefit the Institute, and give greater exposure to the Institute’s work in helping more than 16,000 children with developmental disabilities each year.

Mindie Burgoyne is an author, travel writer and tour guide living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her blog, The Travel Hag shares information on outdoor travel for women. She is the author of Haunted Eastern Shore: Ghostly Tales from East of the Chesapeake.