From what Laura Evans has been told, she has been attending Kennedy Krieger Institute's Festival of Trees every year since she was in a stroller.
A holiday tradition for her family, the Catonsville resident thought the festival, with its collection of Christmas trees, wreaths and gingerbread houses, was "a magical place."
Now 27, Evans is still enchanted by the festival.
She also now recognizes the event as a fundraiser for Kennedy Krieger Institute, which helps children and adolescents with disorders and injuries of the brain and spinal cord.
A creative person by nature, Evans decided this year, it was time for her to help out.
"It is just a good cause," Evans said. "I'm really proud to say I've gone every year."
After this weekend, Evans will also be able to say she participated as she is decorating a 4-foot tree to be sold at the festival.
This marks the first year for 4-foot trees to be decorated. In the past, only 2- and 7-foot trees have been featured.
"We had an idea that a lot of people in downtown with row homes might not have room for a 7-foot tree," said Jennifer Burke, communications coordinator for Kennedy Krieger. "A 4-foot tree is perfect for those row homes. It gives people another option."
All 600 decorated trees will be for sale during the festival, with prices ranging from $15 to $500, Burke said.
Kennedy Krieger Institute's staff determine the cost of each tree after seeing them decorated and on display.
Over the past 22 years, the festival has raised $13 million for the institute, with more than 50,000 people attending the three-day event, Burke said.
Throughout the years, Evans has had many "favorite trees," including a "blue" tree and a Victorian-style tree.
For her tree, Evans chose a beach/nautical theme, she said, because she loves the beach.
"I pretty much had this idea from the get go," she said. "It's an interesting blend. People don't think of going to the beach in December."
Seashells sprinkled with glitter and a wooden sign pointing to the beach are some of the ornaments Evans made for her tree.
Everything will come together, she hopes, when she gets to decorate the tree at the fairgrounds.
"I feel I over-made a few ornaments," Evans said. "I made a lot of stuff. It's been a fun process. It gave me something to do in the evening."
Already, her thoughts are turning to next year's festival. She is thinking about doing a traditional tree with glass balls, or an "upcycle" tree that features ornaments that had a "previous life" as something else – like an aluminum can. She may even try to tackle a 7-foot tree.
"To get to the 7-foot tree level, there is a lot of time needed," Evans said. "I would need to start a little sooner. You don't want the tree to be too cluttered, too pushed, too gaudy."
She is excited to be taking an active part in the festival this year. A lot of her friends and family are planning to attend to see her tree.
"It's amazing the creativity people have," Evans said.. "You don't see the same things there. People go all over the place. It's amazing. It's fun."
Kennedy Krieger Institute's Festival of Trees is held at the Maryland Fairground at the Cow Palace on Nov. 23, 24 and 25, at the State Fairgrounds in Timonium, 2200 York Road.
The event features fairyland forests, toy train gardens, more than 100 craft artisans, a Santa letter-writing station, a Harry Potter castle, book readings and live music, in addition to the decorated trees, wreaths and gingerbread houses.
Special events this year include:
• Storytime sessions on Friday, Nov. 23, with Mary Alice Yeskey, of Charm City Cakes and the Food Network's show "Ace of Cakes," at 5:30 p.m.; and also with Santa at 5:45 p.m. Both will read a holiday story to kids. On Saturday, Nov. 24, Fox 45-TV personality Joel D. Smith will read a holiday story.
• Performances by the children's rock band, Milkshake, Friday, at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
• "Reindeer" pony rides on Donner and Blitzen, a remote control race track, a carousel and crafts.
Admission is $13 for adults; $7 for ages 5 to 12 and seniors. Children 4 and younger are free.
For more information, call 443-923-7300.
To purchase discounted tickets in advance or learn how to earn free tickets, go to http://www.festivaloftrees.kennedykrieger.org.