FAIRFIELD, Conn. - For the past 34 years, the Fairfield Christmas Tree Festival has worked with volunteers from across the county to raise money for charities and nonprofits that work with women, children and families.
The first year the festival took place, it took only six weeks to plan -- now it takes more than a year, longtime board member Cecily Zerega said.
"Some year's we've given to two or three agencies," Zerega said. "But lately we've been only giving to one."
And for the past 10 years, Zerega has been making quilts to be raffled to benefit a second charity that might not have the volunteers to staff the festival. This year, the money from the quilt raffle will go to NAMI of Fairfield.
This year, the money raised by the festival is going to help Bridgeport's Kennedy Center and the building of its new artists cooperative, something longtime Fairfield resident Margaret Daly helped to start. This year's festival has been dedicated to Daly to honor her memory.
The festival has evolved over the years from raising more than $12,000 in its first year to more than $200,000 from the Gala preview party, the children's dinner with Santa and the sales of wreaths and other holiday decorations.
"Each room is designed by a person or company who has to work within the budget given or they donate the rest of it," Zerega said. And each room is unique. Some years, Zerega has picked a theme. Past themes have included the 12 Days of Christmas and teddy bears.
The festival runs through Sunday, Dec. 8, and is open from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. each day.
Tickets can be purchased at the door. Purchased wreaths can be picked up after 4 p.m. Sunday or on Monday, Dec. 9.