PANAMA CITY BEACH — Visions of sugar plums dancing in your head, dreaming of a Christmas in the Hundred Acre Wood or just thinking how much cooler Santa would look if he traded in his sleigh for a motorcycle? There’s a tree for that.
In its seventh year and bigger than ever before, the Panama City Rescue Mission’s Festival of Trees fundraiser opens Tuesday with a preview held in conjunction with the Bay County Chamber of Commerce’s Business After Hours from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Marina Civic Center.
The fundraiser for the Mission’s Bethel Village, a recovery program for women, is the program’s biggest. Last year about $45,000 was raised, and this year organizer Amanda Bawn hopes to raise $60,000. As donated items were brought to the Civic Center on Monday and volunteers were busy decorating trees, Bawn was overseeing the preparations for what will be the biggest version of the event.
The event has 93 auction items, including wreaths, centerpieces and trees, among them those decorated with Christmas candy, “Winnie the Pooh” characters and motorcycles. It’s up from 65 last year. This year’s theme is “Christmas Through the Eyes of a Child,” and some items follow the theme closer than others.
The items can be purchased for businesses, individuals or as donations to the Mission’s list of families in need.
During the chamber event, businesses can purchase a tree without going through the bidding process. A sign recognizing the purchase will hang during the week. Throughout the week, there will be opportunities to bid on trees and silent auction gifts.
Dianne Law of Panama City Beach and Mary Jo Guyne of Panama City were decorating a tree with a patriotic theme Monday afternoon. They said they support the mission and hope their tree will help bring money to the organization. Dianne’s husband, Rich Law, is the general manager of Thunder Beach Productions, the organization that hosts the twice-a-year motorcycle rallies. His tree was decorated with motorcycle decorations, T-shirts and topped with Santa on a motorcycle. The decision to participate in the fundraiser wasn’t a difficult one to make, Rich Law said. “We support the community and we believe in what Rev. Billy Fox does with the Mission,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do. If you’re a part of the community, you need to take part in the community.”
Several private events are scheduled Wednesday through Friday, including a lunch with Santa for more than 100 homeless children.
On Friday the event will be open to the public 5-9 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children or $15 for families. Family admission includes a photo with Santa. That night, trees and gingerbread houses will be on display and food will be available at Santa’s Bistro.
Gifts can be purchased at a Scholastic Book Fair, the Children’s Secret Shop, where children can buy presents for friends and family and have the items wrapped, and Mrs. Claus’ Boutique. There also will be gift wrapping, crafts and activities for children and pictures with Santa for $1.
Bids for auction items will be taken until 8 p.m. Friday. Winning bidders will be contacted Saturday morning. Large items will be delivered Saturday morning, and other items can be picked up Sunday afternoon. Payment is due at pickup or delivery.
Best Panama City Beach Condo at Celadon Beach Resort www.bestpanamacitybeachcondo.com thanks the organizers, volunteers and contributors to this great cause!