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Oh what fun!: Five things to know about the Quad City Arts' Kwik Star Festival of Trees
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Oh what fun!: Five things to know about the Quad City Arts' Kwik Star Festival of Trees

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Preparation for the Kwik Star Festival of Trees Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, at the RiverCenter in Davenport. The Kwik Star Festival of Trees opens on Saturday, Nov. 20.

The Quad-Cities' kickoff to the holiday season is back this year with the Kwik Star Festival of Trees, whose "Oh What Fun!" theme guarantees a good time for anyone looking to enjoy the most wonderful time of the year. 

For the past week, Quad City Arts staff, volunteers and partners have been working feverishly to get everything perfect before the RiverCenter doors open to the public. After the organization had to pivot last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone is ready for some in-person cheer. 

"Everyone I've talked to about Festival, even way back in the summer when we announced that we were coming back, there was just so much excitement in the air about having Festival back," Festival of Trees Administrator Kaleigh Trammell said. "We have a lot of new designers this year who are just excited to be able to ... be part of the events." 

Festival of Trees is open to the public starting at 9 a.m. Nov. 20 and going through Nov. 28, with the exception of Thanksgiving Day, at RiverCenter, 136 E 3rd St., Davenport. Daily admission is $10 for adults, $3 for children ages 2-10 and $6 for seniors. 

With so many activities, performances and trees to see, it could be hard to know where to start. Here are five things to know before diving into the Festival of Trees celebrations: 

The Festival of Trees parade is back

The largest helium-balloon parade in the Midwest will return to downtown Davenport at 10 a.m. Nov. 20, starting at 3rd Street and Pershing Avenue. Floats, bands, dancers and — of course — gigantic balloons will head down 3rd Street before turning onto Scott then 2nd Streets, before ending at 2nd and Iowa Streets. The parade is free, and free parking is available downtown. 

Quad City Arts Executive Director Kevin Maynard said the weather was looking warm enough for bands to get to play, and as always, Santa Claus will bring up the rear of the parade in his Santa-mobile. 

"When the balloons are in the sky and the marching bands are playing, it's a little bit of magic," Maynard said. "You can't harness that energy, that feeling without really being there to experience live." 

Festival admission gates are going cashless

Festival-goers won't be able to pay for tickets with cash when purchased at the door this year. To keep lines from getting congested, Quad City Arts is recommending that people buy their tickets online in advance, but cards will be accepted at the gates for those who prefer to buy tickets when they arrive. 

Cash still will be accepted alongside cards inside the RiverCenter for those looking to pick up gifts, treats and raffle tickets. People will also be able to bid for items like designer trees and wreaths online starting Nov. 20. 

New layout will take visitors through fantasy town square

The inside of the RiverCenter will look a little bit different this year, Maynard said. Made to look like a town square, the festival's main, big tree will be placed in the center of the layout. Larger attractions like the gingerbread village, Festival Express and Center Stage will spread out around the tree, with designer trees and other items set along and inside the perimeter. 

Maynard said kids should remember to bring $1 if they wanted to operate the Festival Express. 

Other activities and shops can be found throughout the upper floor and other rooms of the RiverCenter. 

"The last design has worked fairly well, so we just thought it was time," Maynard said. "Since we had a year off, let's bring it back a little fresh."

Holiday fun for more than just families

While Festival of Trees is fun for the whole family, there are a few events that are adult-only. 

A new event for those 21 and older, called "A Rather Curious Brunch," has already sold out. Those who bought tickets will have an adult tea party with the Mad Hatter, White Rabbit and other whimsical characters Nov. 21 at the Quad City Botanical Center.

While Quad City Arts held a silent disco before Festival of Trees in 2019, the event has been reimagined as an after-dark party. People can party with headsets tuning into three different stations 8-10 p.m. Nov. 27 for $10. Partygoers will get to grab a drink from the cash bar, enter raffles and dance the night away with glow sticks. 

Proceeds go to art programming throughout Quad-Cities

Beyond providing visitors with heaps of holiday fun, proceeds from Festival of Trees benefits Quad City Arts programming to help encourage the arts for everyone. 

Maynard said the funds would be distributed across Quad City Arts projects and initiatives, from its two art galleries to the Metro Arts Youth Apprenticeship Program to bringing visiting artists to local schools and community spaces. The organization reaches around 25,000 students annually. 

"Really it helps support all of our programs," he said. 

For more information on Festival of Trees, visit the event's website

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