50 years of Christmas

The Queen’s Medical Center Auxiliary celebrates its 50th, and last, Festival of Trees.


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Everyone complains about how the Christmas season starts earlier every year, creeping backwards from Thanksgiving to Halloween. They've got nothing on the members of The Queen's Medical Center Auxiliary, though, who are knee-deep in ornaments and tinsel as early as January.

Tucked into one of the back corridors of the hospital, the Festival of Trees workshop is stuffed with all things Christmas, all year round. There's a jovial atmosphere as 10 or so volunteers work and talk story twice a week around a long table full of holiday raw materials: red and green yarn, gold beads, shiny ornaments, miniature pieces of furniture. Ask the assembled group if they ever get tired of Christmas, and you get a chorus of No! "Every day is Christmas for us!" adds one.

Scenes from past festivals.(Clockwise):1956,1956, 1977. Photos Courtesy Queen’s Medical Center

Completed wreaths hang on the walls and a back room is filled with shrouded, decorated trees waiting for their December unveiling. You could almost forget you're inside a hospital. Almost. In one corner of the room, an enormous, festively decorated doll house sits on a stainless steel hospital gurney. "If a gurney is out in the hallway for more than 24 hours, it's ours," jokes Marty Brinkmann, the lone male Auxiliary volunteer.

All this work is for The Queen's Medical Center Auxiliary's Festival of Trees, a holiday bazaar with a cornucopia of handmade crafts and Christmas decorations happening Friday, Dec. 3 through Sunday, Dec. 5. This is the event's 50th, and final, year. After the last Christmas tree is sold, The Queen's Medical Center will be moving on to a different, less labor-intensive fund-raising event.

It's been a good run-over the years the festival has been held all over town, from its modest beginnings at the Ala Moana Pavilion to its glory days at Blaisdell Center to Ward Center, where it's been held for the past eight years.

1973

In the process, the Festival of Trees has raised more than $2 million for the hospital, and become a comforting holiday tradition on O'ahu. "The public depends on us as the beginning of Christmas," says Connie Black, Auxiliary chair. "I told the girl at the bank last year, when I was depositing some of the patron money, that 2004 is going to be our last year. She said, 'Oh, you can't! You can't close!'"

It's also been a tradition among the Auxiliary volunteers; many have been showing up to the workshop twice a week for the past eight or 10 years, others much longer. Lydia Iwasaki has been a volunteer for more than 40 years, and Connie Black has been involved with the event in some capacity since its inception 50 years ago-she was one of its founders. This festival will be a bittersweet one for her. "It will be missed, but I think others will take up the slack; it'll be in a different form," she says. "I think we've done a good thing for the community."

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