Festival of Trees returns to the hallowed halls of the historic Embassy Theatre beginning on the city’s annual Night of Lights on Wednesday, Nov. 22, and sticking around until Wednesday, Nov. 29.

At the center of the festival are 65 decorated trees adorning two levels of the old Indiana Hotel and Embassy Theatre.

The Embassy will host numerous special holiday events during the festival, including a new opportunity to have a pizza party with Santa Claus himself on Tuesday, Nov. 28. 

As dinner concludes Thanksgiving Day, doors to the festival will open at 3 p.m., with a screening of the 2018 animated film Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch beginning at 4 p.m. Following the movie, Cletus Goens will entertain the crowd by playing the Grande Page Pipe Organ at 5:30 p.m.

Festival of Trees

6-9 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 22
3-7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 23
11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday-Monday, Nov. 24-27
9 a.m.-1 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday, Nov. 28-29
Embassy Theatre
125 W. Jefferson Blvd., Fort Wayne
$5-$10 · (260) 424-6287

Spending Time with Santa

Carly Myers, chief marketing officer for the Embassy, said about 22,000 people attended the festival in 2022. She also noted full-stage programming is scheduled for the three days following Thanksgiving, featuring performances by several dance groups and choirs from the community.

“It is really jam-packed,” she said. “People come to the festival, sometimes, just to see their kid or their neighbor or their grandchild perform. But then, they end up realizing that they want to come and just walk through the festival, which, of course, is a part of the ticket. 

“It’s really interesting over the weekend because we have a lot of people that really just come to support what’s happening in the auditorium. But then they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, I didn’t even know that this was kind of a winter wonderland.’ They end up just walking through the theater or through the festival itself and getting kind of lost in it.”

The sold-out Breakfast with Santa is Nov. 24-25, which includes a private tour of the Festival of Trees. During breakfast, families will enjoy an abridged performance of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown from the Fort Wayne Youtheatre. 

If you missed out on that one, there’s still time to join the Big Man on the Embassy stage during Santa’s Rockin’ Pizza Party, which includes games and storytime from 6-8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 28.

day of accessibility

Open from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday-Monday, Nov. 24-27, the festival then is open 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 28, for Senior Day.

“We don’t have a restriction on actual ages for that day, but we do kind of (put) some extra love and care into that day so that we can support the assisted living and nursing facilities that will come in groups to bring their residents here,” Myers said. 

“So, we just make sure that we’re staffed accordingly. And then we can help, whether it’s lots of wheelchairs or walkers or things like that, so that we can have a day where we can give a little extra time and attention to that senior audience that loves the festival just as much as everyone else.”

Hours are also 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on the final day, Wednesday, Nov. 28.

Admission helps community icon

Revenue generated by Festival of Trees supports operational and restoration efforts of the Embassy Theatre Foundation. The eight-day event is the organization’s largest annual fundraiser. 

Myers said that, in terms of planning, Festival of Trees is a year-round effort, but the effort picks up in the summer. 

“We start going kind of hardcore in the summer to get people recommitted for sponsoring trees because every tree is sponsored by an organization or company in the community. And then at that point, those sponsors either say, ‘We have a designer or a decorator in-house that we want to utilize, and we’ll come up with a theme.’ ”

From there, decorators work with the sponsoring organizations to bring their visions and trees to life. 

Once complete, the trees are placed on display within just two to three days. 

“It’s just a matter of us partnering people with the right decorators to make sure that their vision and their creativity gets executed at the end of the day,” Myers said. “It’s pretty amazing how it all works every year.”

This fundraiser and other community support is crucial to the continued service of Embassy Theatre to Fort Wayne. 

“(The Embassy is) only the community icon of the importance that it is because the community has saved us,” Myers said. “In the 1970s, they saved the Embassy from the wrecking ball… The community really understands the historical significance of this space in northeast Indiana. So, this is a small way that people can offer their financial support and commitment to keeping the Embassy alive for generations to come.

“If you’re a fan of the holidays, and you’re trying to kick off the holiday season, a lot of people consider the festival kind of the official kickoff of the season because it’s very popular and has been for these four decades,” she added. “But for $10 for an adult ticket and $5 for a youth ticket (12 and younger), it really is a very affordable way of bringing your whole family to a really cool event… The wonderful thing about the festival is there are trees for everyone.”

It is strongly encouraged to purchase tickets online or in person in advance. 

For more information or to purchase tickets online, go to fwembassytheatre.org/festival-of-trees