BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The 32nd annual Festival of Trees is underway. It’s online again this year because of the pandemic.

The event raises money for the Kennedy Krieger Institute but also is a way for families all over the area to get into the holiday spirit.

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“It’s kind of the kick-off to Christmas for us,” Laurie Lovaas of Catonsville said. “It’s always the first Christmas event we do.”

The pandemic can’t stop the Festival of Trees. All of the events and fun can be accessed for free through an online portal.

That’s also where you can view the festival’s trees, wreaths and gingerbread houses designed and donated by members of the community.

“It’s really a part of the fabric of ushering the holiday season for the Baltimore, central Maryland area,” Kennedy Krieger Institute President and CEO Brad Schlaggar said.

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WJZ got an up-close, sneak peek at the hundreds of items. They can be purchased online and picked up from the Maryland State Fairgrounds.

There is a new component to the festival this year, a toy drive. People can donate new, unwrapped toys at the fairgrounds for the children at Kennedy Krieger. Several families showed up Friday to donate.

“We’re sad the whole festival isn’t there, but we’re glad to still be able to donate,” Lovaas said. The institute hopes to hold the event in person next year.

The Festival of Trees normally brings in more than $1 million for the institute which serves 25,000 patients and students a year. Last year’s virtual event brought in about $700,000. Organizers said that didn’t put a damper on the event.

“What was most important to us was making sure the event still happened,” Dr. Schlaggar said. “Like I said, for many families, this is the ushering-in of the holiday season. We couldn’t miss that moment.”

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The event lasts through Sunday. For more information, click here. 

Jessica Albert