SANTA MARIA, Calif. – A popular Santa Maria holiday tradition has returned to the Santa Maria Town Center mall with the recent opening of the Altrusa Festival of Trees.
"It definitely feels like the holiday," said Orcutt resident Tony Gonzales, while visiting the fundraiser on Tuesday. "If you're suffering from not feeling Christmas yet, this is the place to go. You've got plenty of lights, you got plenty of toys and just dreams that are being accomplished."
The fundraiser is held each holiday season and features specially decorated themed Christmas trees on display that will be later be raffled off.
Each tree is sponsored by a local business or group and is decorated with several gifts. Trees are valued at a minimum of $1,000, with some around $3,000.
Visitors can purchase a chance to win a tree by buying a $1 raffle ticket.
"It's really exciting," said Santa Maria resident Jena Simmons, who entered several tickets Tuesday afternoon. "I wait for the call every year that I won a tree.
This year, the Festival of Trees runs from Nov. 24 through Dec. 9, with winners drawn on Dec. 10.
All proceeds from the ticket sales benefit Altrusa of the Central Coast, a local club that addresses needs of the community and select projects that will help benefit the Santa Maria Valley.
"All this money is raised so that we can give it back in scholarships and in grants in the community, which we've been giving out every for the last 20 years now," said Altrusa president Melinda Aguirre. "We try to touch on every basis. We don't want to leave anybody out. We want to make sure we spread this money evenly."
The Festival of Trees serves the biggest annual fundraiser for Altrusa and has raised more than $1 million over the previous 19 years.
"It's the community giving back to the community," said Aguirre. "We like to see the the people when they when they receive their grants or the scholarships that we get to give out to Orcutt Academy, Santa Maria High School and Pioneer Valley, and when we go and give out those scholarships, all the kids are just amazed at that."
The Altrusa Festival of Trees is open during regular mall hours and is located on the bottom floor of the mall next to Edwards Theatre.
For more information about the Altrusa Festival of Trees, click here.