Volunteers, designers prep for 45th annual Festival of Trees

Posted at 7:15 PM, Nov 30, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-30 21:15:06-05

SANDY, Utah – The 45th annual of the Festival of Trees kicks off this week.

On Monday, volunteers spent the day setting up trees and wreaths at the South Towne Expo Center.

The festival has raised more than $37 million since it started in 1971. All proceeds go to benefit Primary Children's Hospital. Some donors are designing their trees with a special cause in mind.

Carpenter Paul Newman has been designing trees for over a decade. But his designs are a little more unique than most.

“And we have the different events that we call them, the swirly thing, the bowl, the loop-de-loop, the funnels,” Newman said.

He crafts wooden works of art using chutes and snooker balls. The balls were donated by a billiards company back east.

“This is probably about our 12th or 13th tree,” Newman said. “We call them trees, but they never look like trees.”

He designed this year’s tree with a special cause in mind – to recognize children with autism.

“I think the idea of balls, rolling down, the movement, the kinetic motion of the balls is something that children with autism can focus on and it allows them to kind of, get in their own space and not worry about all the extra stuff that’s going on in the world,” Newman said.

Friends of Newman’s who are volunteering say the tree is especially meaningful for them.

Karrie Wood has a son with autism. She said the wooden machine is something that keeps his mind occupied.

“He’s always on the move,” Wood said. “Always moving, always walking, always – so this, the movement, means a lot to us.”

The trees are sold to the highest bidder. All proceeds go to Primary Children’s Hospital. Some of Newman’s trees have sold for as much as $30,000.

“It’s a beautiful way to start your Christmas season,” said Marie Partridge, chairwoman for Festival of Trees. “Even the price of your ticket helps a child at Primary Children’s Hospital, so it’s a tradition for many families.”

The festival kicks off on Wednesday and goes through Saturday. Doors open at 10 a.m. and close at 10 p.m.

For information on the festival, visit