In just a few weeks the world will become a place where Christmas lights cover houses and inside college dorms, Christmas music floats through the air at dining centers and shoppers are hustling around trying to get presents for their loved ones.

The Ames community is doing its own part for this holiday celebration, but they are starting a little earlier than most.

The Octagon Center for the Arts, alongside the Main Street Cultural District, will be kicking of their Fourth Annual Festival of Trees from 5 to 8 p.m. starting Friday, Nov. 16.

The Festival of Trees was started by the Octagon Center in November of 2009 and, after its success from last year with having more than 1,500 visitors at their Christmas showcase, it was continued.

The idea originated 42 years ago in the state of Utah to be a “Gift of Love” to children in the Primary Children’s Medical Center.

The Festival of Trees was organized by a group of 85 women who wanted to help raise money for the children and their families during the holiday season.

Since the group’s start of the festival, more than $30.8 million dollars has been raised for the children at the Primary Children’s Medical Center and has spread to other states as well.

In Ames, local businesses participate in Festival of Trees by decorating trees and wreaths, which are displayed at the Octagon Center and donated to a silent auction where proceeds go toward art education programs at the Octagon Center.

Individuals are also welcome to participate by decorating or donating their own trees and wreaths to the showcase and/or silent auction.

The money raised by the silent auction will go toward scholarships offered by the art center for those whom cannot afford to pay for the art classes.

This is to ensure children and adults are not turned away from being able to participate in the creative and innovative art classes and camps that are sponsored by the Octagon Center.

The Festival of Trees will continue until Dec. 2. The Octagon Center for the Arts will be open on the three weekends during the festival from 1 to 5 p.m.

It will also be displayed during regular weekday gallery hours, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, but will be closed for Thanksgiving Thursday, Nov. 22, and Friday, Nov. 23.

However, the art center has more than just viewing the Christmas trees and wreaths planned.

“We are having several special activities that include live music from local groups. Children’s activities will include: ornament making on Saturday, Nov. 17, wreath making on Sunday, Nov. 18, and gift tag making on Saturday, Dec. 1.,” said Phyllis Craig, membership/volunteer services director from the Octagon Center of the Arts. “There will be much more happening there as well.”

The Festival will have two special guests visiting. Miss Iowa Teen USA Morgan Kofoid will be visiting on Saturday, Nov. 17, to show her support of the holiday season and for the arts.

Santa Claus will be there as well to see the children Sunday, Nov. 18. To add to the events, there will also be a giving tree.

Visitors are recommended to bring children’s gloves, mittens or hats to be hung on the tree to be donated to a local charity.

“I think that it is a great way to get everyone in the mood for the holidays,” said Maggie Daves, freshman in animal ecology at Iowa State. “It will make me more excited to celebrate with my family shortly after the festival ends.”

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