by Kristina Domitrovich // photos by Lindsay Pace
This year, the Tupelo Christmas staple put on by the Tupelo Women’s Club, the Holiday Tree Fest, will look a little different. The ticketed event usually hosted at the Tupelo Country Club is shifting to an online virtual event to accommodate COVID-19 precautions.
Each year, around August and September, the roughly 140 women involved in TWC, start reaching out to local businesses to sign sponsors. This year, they reached out even earlier and were delightfully surprised by the feedback.
“We thought it was going to be more difficult,” said the club’s president for two years, Megan Johnson. “We have found that we have had even more sponsors willing to help, so that’s actually been great.”
Each year, there are around 15-20 decorated Christmas trees up for silent auction, according to Kimberly Jeffares, the marketing chair who has organized the fundraiser in the past. The trees come in three sizes: 5 feet, 7 1/2 feet and 9 feet. Jeffares said these auction items usually go for around $275-$400 for the smallest option, $500-$750 for the 7-foot tree, and anywhere from $750-$1,000 for the largest option.
There’s also a stocking and ornament grab, which Johnson said is particularly fun. The concept is simple: Participants can purchase a stocking for $25 or an ornament for $10, and they’re guaranteed items that price-match their investment. However, some lucky participants may find a Christopher Radko ornament, or something like a Bose speaker or a Kate Spade purse in their stocking.
The event usually offers a band, food and a cash bar, and last year, even Santa made an appearance. But this year will be a little different, as people can host virtual watch parties. Each party will have a total of 10 people, and each person attending will receive $5 off their registration fee. TWC will also throw in a party package, with items like a bottle of wine or restaurant gift cards, “something fun like that,” Johnson said. During the party, the host will have the live event up on the screen, so their guests can follow along with the fun while keeping an eye on the items they’ve bid on. Throughout the evening, to keep the party rolling, there will be pop-ins from a TWC member and Santa.
“We’re really excited,” Johnson said. “We were nervous at first, but the more planning (that) goes into it and the more we see how people are reacting to it, I think it’s really going to be fun.”
But the fun doesn’t have to be on hold for the main event, which will be Nov. 10, and the theme is “Making Spirits Bright.” TWC members went around Tupelo and set up a few trees in local businesses, and registered participants can begin bidding or even out-right buy a tree now.
Winning bidders can expect a delivered tree to their home the day after the event. The Holiday Tree Fest benefits TWC’s five listed charities: Regional Rehabilitation Center, Helping Hands, Tree of Life Clinic, S.A.F.E. and an annually rotating charity that is nominated and voted on by TWC members. Last year, the event brought in $45,000, and each charity received a check for $9,000. This year, TWC hopes to bump the event’s total up to $50,000.
“It’s kind of kicking off the holiday season right before Thanksgiving, and everybody’s excited about decorating their houses for Christmas,” Jaffares said. “I love walking into a room full of decorated Christmas trees, it just puts you in the Christmas spirit immediately; but I love getting to know our charities at the same time. My favorite part would be at the end when we deliver the checks to the charities, and just seeing the joy and the appreciation on their faces.”