QCMB note: Sometimes, we turn to area experts to share things that make the Quad Cities great. Today, our friend Meghan Peterson (a local mom, wife and co-director of Quad City Arts’ Festival of Trees) is sharing some insider tips you won’t want to miss for Festival of Trees 2016, which starts this week. 

Family traditions come in all forms. Your holiday traditions may include cutting down the annual Christmas tree, baking holiday cookies on a Sunday afternoon, or sledding down the hill at grandma and grandpa’s house in three feet of snow!

For my family, Festival of Trees is our family tradition to kick off the holiday season.

Festival of Trees tipsOur tradition began when I was around 10. My mom would take a carload full of my friends down to the River Center to tie ribbon on hundreds of stuffed animals so they could be hung on the Zoo Tree.

The Zoo Tree (which is now the Toy Tree) was a collection of stuffed animals that were given to children at local hospitals during the holiday season.

We would sit together on the floor cutting ribbons, giggling about our latest crush or planning our next sleepover, while working together as a team to accomplish a task. I’m sure I understood in some capacity the purpose of the Zoo Tree but at the time my focus was having fun with my friends while doing something my mom said would be helpful to her and the community. 

Fast forward a few years and my mom took a more active role as the co-chair for the Festival Gift shop.

I helped with the cash register throughout the 10 days of Festival while my Grandma sat and wrapped Isabel Blooms or packaged other purchases and visited with Festival guests. My grandma passed away just over 9 years ago and each year as we near Festival opening, my mom and I reminisce about our joyful memories of this specific time together. My Grandma loved to spend time with my mom and I while doing something positive for the Quad Cities. 

Festival of Trees Meghan PetersonLittle did I knew 20 years later we would be co-directors for such an amazing event that provides so much to the Quad Cities!

We talked in depth before we put our names in the hat to be the 2016 Co-Directors of Festival of Trees but knew this was the next step for us to give back to the community that has done so much for us.

There are so many different ways that Festival of Trees can become a new holiday tradition for your family. Here are a few recommendations (and bonus tips) for a great Festival experience.


Do you have a preteen or teen in your house? Volunteering is a great way to do something together to create memories and give back to the community. Areas such as the North Pole or Treate Shoppe allow kids to interact with others by helping create a craft or sell homemade treats made by Festival volunteers.

Tip – Did you know that every time you volunteer for Festival you receive a FREE general admission ticket? ($10 value)  Sign up here.     

Attend the FREE Festival Parade!

(9:45 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19)

Who doesn’t love a good parade?

This is a FREE all-ages event open to the public with something for everyone.

Did you know it is the largest helium balloon parade in the Midwest?

Be sure to come early, grab a hot chocolate from your favorite spot or attend our NEW pre-parade breakfast sponsored by Dunkin’ Donuts. It even includes exclusive seating so no waiting out in the cold.

Need to warm up after it’s over? Festival opens at 10 a.m.  

Tip – Don’t want to go out in the cold? Take a vacation in your own backyard! Book a room at the Radisson Hotel or Blackhawk Hotel and ask for a room that overlooks the parade route. 


Visit the North Pole!

The North Pole this is our children’s area with games, prizes, face painting and of course, Santa!!

Tip– Did you already see Santa or plan to visit him at another location? North Pole is less busy during the hours when Santa is not available to visit.

Daytime hours prior to Thanksgiving Day or the Saturday following Thanksgiving is a great time to bring young kids when the crowds are low.


Take in a movie!

We partnered with the Putnam Museum to bring a new event to Festival featuring two showings of the classic Home Alone 2: Lost in New York on the Saturday following Thanksgiving (11/26).

For only $12, you get to see a movie on the big screen, receive a General Admission ticket to Festival ($10 value) AND free admission to Putnam’s permanent Exhibit & Science Center.

This is a great way to relax, enjoy free hot chocolate and decompress from the holiday shopping!

Don’t miss this year’s Festival of Trees events – and make your own family traditions you’ll reminisce about for years to come!

Meghan Peterson is a wife of 8 years to her loving and supportive husband Drew and a mother of two young kiddos (Vivian – 4 and Wyatt – 1). Meghan works full time and is a substitute ZUMBA instructor with the Scott County Family Y. When she isn’t preparing for Festival, she loves to make memories with her family including trips to the library, singing loudly and off-key or “practicing” gymnastics in the backyard.

Meghan and Drew are life-long Quad-Citians who both graduated from Riverdale High School in Port Byron. Meghan is an alumni of Augustana College (undergrad degree) and St. Ambrose University (graduate degree).

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply