Festival of Trees canceled, shorter alternative event in the works

Vermilion County

DANVILLE, Ill. (WCIA) — Event organizers announced this year’s OSF Festival of Trees has been canceled because of COVID-19.

Dr. Jared Rogers, President of OSF Healthcare, said in a video interview Wednesday the decision wasn’t unilaterally made on behalf of OSF Healthcare: they involved the committee and its co-chairs when making it.

“We were all sad that it was a decision that we had to make, but everyone knew what it had to be,” he said. “We came together and had good unity in the consensus that we came to.”

Rogers said they start planning for the November event each year in January, which makes it “almost a year-round’ sort of thing.” He added that because of COVID-19, they haven’t been able to hold meetings to plan the festival and that put them far behind in preparing for it.

“Another thing was what the pandemic has done to many of our businesses in the area, which supports the Festival of Trees, supports the fundraising that we’re doing,” Rogers said. “It seemed a little bit unfair to put that type of what sometimes feels like an obligation to give to a worthy cause.

“To put that on our businesses in the area that have been suffering significantly from the financial impacts of the pandemic, that was another thing.”

Rogers also said the likelihood of COVID-19 being a non-issue in November was ‘almost zero’, adding it’s a ‘very real thing’ they have to consider.

“We’re likely to see a second surge of some type, and if that doesn’t happen we’re still very likely to see lots of intermittent transmission of the disease going around,” he said.

“So as a healthcare organization to have an event, that say for the gala night of the event brings 1,000 people together in close proximity, or even during the smaller events that occur during the Festival of Trees where you have scores of people or hundreds of people together in close proximity, or people just visiting the festival, it just wasn’t a good situation from a community health standpoint that we felt that we could put forward as being safe, because I don’t think it would be.”

Dr. Jared Rogers, OSF Healthcare President

It would have been the 25th year for the well-attended fundraiser, where about 100 decorated Christmas trees and wreaths are put on display.

For this year, the mission of their fundraiser was to help expand or make more accessible OSF cancer care services in Danville and Vermilion County, Rogers said.

In previous years, he said they raised money for their community outreach programs, 3-D mammography equipment, and Medi-van transportation services.

While he couldn’t release specifics, Rogers said they were planning a shorter, single-day event as a safer alternative to the usual festival this year.

“It will be done in such a manner that it is safe for people to participate in and feel protected in doing that, as well as having fun, celebrating life.”

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