There's a story behind every tree and wreath at the annual Kennedy Krieger Festival of Trees, running this week at the State Fairgrounds in Timonium, and some of those stories are simply born out of holiday spirit and a desire to help children and families of the Kennedy Krieger Institute.
One local resident, 26-year-old Katrina Schrader, of Cockeysville, has been involved with Kennedy Krieger's mission to improve the lives of children and adolescents with pediatric developmental disabilities and disorders through care, education, research and training.
This year, she's relishing the opportunity to take her involvement in the annual celebration a step further.
Schrader, a Loyola University graduate who recently married and settled in the area, is decorating a wreath to be sold along with the traditional trees at the Kennedy Krieger fundraiser. As with the trees and other items decorated for the event — and which will be sold to raise money for the institute — Schrader's wreath appeals to her own demographic.
"It's a Maryland craft beer theme," she said. "Everyone does Orioles; they do Ravens; they do wine. I thought I'd take a different look at it."
Schrader, who spent Thursday and Friday of last week decorating ornaments and painting small signs that can be removed from the wreath and put on a tree, has seen first-hand where the money raised goes.
In college, she interned and then volunteered at Kennedy Krieger's Fairmount Middle-High School in Baltimore.
"I spent a lot of time around the school and the families, and saw how much (the families) benefit from having somewhere they trust when they send their kids and get support," she said.
It was through her internship that Schrader first heard of the Festival of Trees — she recalled that during her volunteer time, she helped students decorate individual puzzle pieces that they were using to create their own wreath. Even after she graduated and moved north, her trips back to the Baltimore area for Thanksgiving always included a trip to the annual event.
Her deadline for her own wreath was before Thanksgiving, but it wasn't too early to get into the holiday spirit. As she worked on the ornaments at her home, Christmas music played in the background.
"I love Christmas, and think (the Festival of Trees) is a great way to start off the holiday season," she said.
The 2012 edition of the Festival of Trees is scheduled for Friday through Sunday, Nov. 23-25, at the Maryland State Fairgrounds, 2200 York Road, in Timonium.
More than 50,000 visitors are expected for the event, and proceeds benefit programs at Kennedy Krieger.
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. The decorated trees, along with wreaths and gingerbread houses, are the main attraction.
"There are more than 600 trees on display and so many gingerbread houses, which are all decorated and for sale," said Jennifer Burke, communications coordinator at Kennedy Krieger Institute.
Special events at this year's edition 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 also read a holiday story.
• Performances by the children's rock band, Milkshake, Friday, at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
• The annual SantaLand, with a Harry Potter castle, "reindeer" pony rides on Donner and Blitzen, a remote control race track, a carousel and crafts. Additionally, kids can meet Santa and send their wish lists to the North Pole at the Santa Letter Writing Station.
• A raffle for a three-night Disney vacation for four, including airfare and hotel accommodations. $2 tickets can be purchased at the event or online at http://www.festivaloftrees.kennedykrieger.org.
General admission to Festival of Trees is $13 for adults; $7 for children 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.