BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Festival of Trees is transforming in light of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The holiday event put on by the Kennedy Krieger Institute will go from a three-day in-person festival to a hybrid-online experience. 

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“This event is going to kick some of the traditions we know and love… where we bring together our designers to decorate our trees,” Michelle Meuller, the director of special events at the institute, said.

Artificial trees will be sold online, a virtual entertainment stage with “family-friendly acts,” online shopping with dozens of gift vendors and an online auction site with a variety of auction items, as well as “special surprises,” for families to enjoy.

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“The safety of our dedicated Festival-goers, designers, patients, sponsors, volunteers and staff will always be our top priority,” said Dr. Brad Schlaggar, president and CEO of Kennedy Krieger Institute. “Although things may look a little different this year, we are thrilled to be bringing Festival of Trees to your homes this November and we have a lot of new and exciting things in store. And, this year, no matter where you live, you can participate in the magic of Festival!”

Assigned times and expanded tree spacing will allow tree-designers to create their trees, sold online, at the Cow Palace within the Timonium Fairgrounds while adhering to social distancing, masking and health and safety protocols.

Only designers will be allowed on-site, with limited staff.

The festival is Thanksgiving weekend, November 27-29. It’s often regarded as the unofficial start to the holiday season.

The event normally draws around 50,000 attendees.

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“(People) love looking at our designs, looking at the trees, shopping,” Meuller said.

This year, people will be able to attend from their homes.

General admission is free. Proceeds will support more than 25,000 patients and families getting services from the Institute through inpatient, and outpatient medical, and other wellness therapies.

“Throughout the Institute, whether in our telehealthcare or this event, we have met the COVID-19 challenges with creativity and innovation. We are dedicated to continuing this iconic event and keeping the Thanksgiving weekend tradition alive for our loyal supporters and new friends from around the world to further the positive impact on the children and families who need our services,” said Linda Schaefer Cameron, vice president of Philanthropy at Kennedy Krieger Institute.

Meuller added the institute is depending on the money raised through the event more than ever to cover programs that don’t get funding from the government or insurance.

It will also provide a bit of normalcy to end a tumultuous year.

Everyone needs a sense of normalcy right now in a world that anything but normal so we’re trying to provide that for everyone, just bringing a little taste of festival magic right to people’s homes,” Meuller said.

Learn more and get updates on the holiday celebration here.

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