Co-chairs bring an Old English touch to this year’s Saint Alphonsus Festival of Trees

Lorie Nies Pettiette and Patrick Pettiette are the community co-chairpersons of this year’s Saint Alphonsus Festival of Trees.
Lorie Nies Pettiette and Patrick Pettiette are the community co-chairpersons of this year’s Saint Alphonsus Festival of Trees. Provided by the Saint Alphonsus Foundation

Every Festival of Trees is just a little bit different. Each year, the chairpersons have the opportunity to put a little different spin on the annual event sponsored by the Saint Alphonsus Foundation.

So take note when you walk into the festival lobby this year and find yourself in a Dickensian world reminiscent of “A Christmas Carol” and Tiny Tim.

“I love Old English Victorian and Dickens and that sort of thing,” said Lorie Nies Pettiette, this year’s co-chair, along with her husband, Patrick Pettiette. “It’s going to be a lot of fun!”

This year’s Festival of Trees beneficiary is the Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

“It’s an investment for all of us,” Patrick said. “One in 10 babies when they’re born need prenatal care. I’m amazed at the number of people who have stepped forward (to donate) because it has affected them personally. People are touched by the need. This really resonates with people.”

Patrick’s skills in business management along with his wife’s experience in media relations and marketing have helped to expand the donor base this year. And they have already reached a record number of Grand Benefactors — those who donate $5,000 to the cause.

Lorie has been on the Foundation Board for 10 years. Patrick is now in his first year.

“I didn’t have a chance to do that in my corporate life,” he said. “Now I have a chance to do it.”

It’s becoming a family affair. They have also solicited their son Prescott to help in the event. A Bishop Kelly graduate now living in Seattle after attending the University of Washington, Prescott’s earliest memories of sitting on Santa’s lap happened right here at the festival.

I don’t know of any (other) event that has 2,000 volunteers. It has just grown and grown.

Lorie Nies Pettiette, this year’s festival co-chair with her husband, Patrick

Meanwhile, Patrick will have a chance to do more than just attract donors.

“There are going to be some surprises on the red carpet,” Lorie said about this year’s fashion show (Monday, Nov. 28). “We’re changing it up, and there’s going to be an emphasis on glamor.”

Cue her husband. He will be dressed in a British hunting outfit, what he calls his “Downton Abbey suit.” His East Texas accent might belie his ensemble, though.

“I had a great time working on the fashion show,” Lorie said. “I have a theatrical background, so that’s been fun.”

Patrick likes what he calls “The Bookends” of the event. The festival starts with a fancy gala on Tuesday, Nov. 22, and then ends with the Monday fashion show. (Both events are already sold out.)

“I used to hate to wear a tux, and now it’s not so bad,” he said about the gala. “This year, I’m going to have some fun.”

The festival attracts more than 25,000 people. And there will be about 90 trees to revel in this year.

“It really is just the magic of Christmas and beautiful trees and the whole Valley coming together,” said Lorie, who missed being a Christmas baby herself by one hour.

Happy holidays. And God bless us, every one.

Dusty Parnell is a freelance print, radio and print journalist who has been working in the Treasure Valley for more than 25 years.

Saint Alphonsus 33rd annual Festival of Trees

Events take place Nov. 22-28 at the Boise Centre.

For reservations for special events, call 367-TREE or visit

The gala is Tuesday, Nov. 22, and is sold out. See the trees from Wednesday, Nov. 23, to Sunday, Nov. 27. Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., except on Thanksgiving, when hours are 2 to 9 p.m. Admission is $7 for adults, children ages 3-12 are $4, seniors (62 or up) are $4, 2 and under are free, and $5 for military; family passes are $30 (up to 6). The Fashion Show and Luncheon is Monday, Nov. 28, and is also sold out.

The recipient of this year’s funds is the Saint Alphonsus Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Last year, the festival raised about $400,000. Since its inception with 14 trees more than three decades ago, attendees have helped raise more than $9 million to improve community health care.

24th annual Canyon County Festival of Trees

You can also check out the festival in Nampa. Events are Nov. 25-28 at the Ford Idaho Center.

See the trees from Friday, Nov. 25, through Sunday, Nov. 27. Admission is $4 for adults, $2 for children, $3 for seniors (62 or older), $12 for a family up to 6, $2 per person for groups of 10 or more. Monday, Nov. 28, is the Gala Dinner & Auction ($80; reservations required). For special-event reservations and times, visit or call 250-4019.

This festival benefits the Canyon County Meals on Wheels. About $40,000 was raised for the program last year. The event has raised more than $600,000 over the years.

Other upcoming popular area holiday events


Idaho Botanical Garden 20th annual Winter Garden aGlow

Open from Thanksgiving-New Year’s Day from 6-9:30 p.m., last admissions at 8:45 p.m. (Open holidays, rain, shine or snow.) The Garden aGlow is open for all holidays. It will be closed Nov. 29-Dec. 1, for exclusive parties. Santa will be on hand every weekend in December leading up to Christmas — Fridays-Mondays — and sometimes he might be joined by Prancer. Santa visits are free with admission; professional photos are available. There will also be plenty of live music and holiday treats, as well as the Holiday Express G-scale replicas of steam and diesel trains in the English Garden on special nights in December and, of course, the Holiday Garden Gift Store.

Sunday-Thursday — $8/adults, $4/kids ages 5-12 (4 and under free) and $4/Garden members.

Friday-Saturday — $10/adults, $6/kids ages 5-12 (4 and under free) and $6/Garden members.

Carpool Monday: $25 for up to 6 people

Military discount: $1 off (with valid ID)

Become a new member in December at the $60 Household level or higher and you’ll also get four Winter Garden aGlow tickets.

Tickets available at the gate or can be purchased in advance at the Garden office or online.

For information call 343-8649 or go to


11 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Idaho Foodbank Empty Bowls on The Grove Plaza; buy a crafted bowl and some tasty soup for a good cause. Choose from more than 3,000 bowls, starting at $10. 336-9643.

5:30 to 7 p.m., Downtown Boise Tree Lighting on the Grove Plaza is a traditional event right outside the Festival of Trees on Saturday this year with Mayor Dave Bieter. Your candleholder will get you $1 off adult admission at Festival of Trees. The Giving Tree benefits the Women’s and Children’s Alliance. Mayor Bieter will light the tree (at approximately 6:55 p.m.), music by Frim Fram Four, caroling. (More area tree lightings listed below.)


5:30 p.m., The Idaho Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. 700 W. Jefferson St., Boise. Featuring the Idaho Army National Guard’s 25th Army Band, and caroling by Opera Idaho and the Andrus Elementary School choir. At 6 p.m., move inside for a cookie and hot chocolate reception and donated children’s books by Scholastic.


4 p.m., Boise TubaChristmas, State Capitol Rotunda.

6 p.m., 14th Annual Treasure Valley Night Light Parade, “Christmas Around the World,” Caldwell.


7 p.m., The Ambrose School Traditional Christmas Program “The Hope of Christmas” at the Morrison Center. The program features a choir, chimes and full orchestra with a 250-voice finale of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.” The Ambrose School is a K-12 classical Christian school in Meridian with more than 500 students.

More area tree lightings

Downtown Nampa Tree Lighting: 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26, Horse Mural Park, 12th Avenue and 1st Street, Nampa. Carriage rides will be available from 3 to 6 p.m., and DreamWeaver Musical Theatre will perform songs at 5 p.m. from the holiday production, “Yes Virginia.”

Magic on Main Street, Lighted Parade and Community Tree Lighting: Parade at 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26, Emmett, followed by tree lighting at Pioneer Park, Washington Avenue and Main Street. 365-3485,

Holiday Parade and Tree Lighting: Line up at 4:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2, Marsing High School football field, 209 8th Ave. W., Marsing. Parade begins at dark and ends at Island Park for the community tree lighting.

Christmas Spirit and Lighting Ceremony: 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2, Four Rivers Cultural Center, 676 S.W. 6th Ave., Ontario. Light show, tree lighting (6 p.m.), pictures with Santa, magician, carolers, readers theater performance of “A Christmas Carol.” Food and drinks available for purchase. (541) 889-8191.

Meridian Winter Lights Parade and Tree Lighting: 6:30 to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2, Generations Plaza, Main Street and E. Idaho Ave., Meridian. Parade starts at 6:30 p.m. on Main Street. Meridian Mayor Tammy de Weerd will light the tree between 7 and 7:30 p.m., followed by fireworks. Also, hot chocolate stations and free outdoor showing of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” prior to the parade at 6 p.m.

Star Tree Lighting: 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2, Star City Hall, 10769 W. State St. Santa Claus, cookies and cocoa, Christmas carols, and Gingerbread House Contest. Free.

Idaho City Christmas Celebration: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, Idaho City. Free pictures with Santa, breakfast with Mrs. Claus (8 a.m.), Christmas bazaar and flea market, tree lighting ceremony with Santa’s arrival at 5 p.m., hay wagon rides, classic movies screenings, caroling, ugly sweater contests, more. (208) 392-4159,

Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting: Tuesday, Dec. 6, U.S. Capitol Building, Washington, D.C. The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree was harvested from Idaho’s Payette National Forest near McCall. We’ll update this list with details when we find out more about broadcast and streaming details so you can catch the action. (The National Christmas Tree will be lit on Dec. 1. That’s the one near the White House. See a related story here.)

Garden City Tree Lighting: 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8, Garden City City Hall, 6015 N. Glenwood St. Garden City Mayor John Evans will do the honors. Cookies and hot apple cider. Free.

Interfaith Sanctuary Tree Lighting: 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8, Interfaith Sanctuary Homeless Shelter, 1620 W. River St., Boise. Music by Interfaith Sanctuary’s newly formed choir, local musicians Belinda Bowler with the Anser Charter School 2nd and 3rd grade choir and Chad and Vashti Summervill and their youth choir. Bring an ornament for the tree. Free.

Country Christmas: 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, Heritage Park, 185 E. State St., Eagle. Christmas market, tree lighting (5:37 p.m.), music, free carriage rides, opportunity to pet a reindeer. Across the street, kids activity tent (1 to 5 p.m.) with Santa (3 to 5 p.m.). And at Creekside Fellowship Church (350 E. State St.), Reindeer Ramble fun run (4:15 p.m., $19) and cookie and cocoa tasting (1 to 6 p.m.). Drop-off barrels for gently used coats, gloves or hats for the Coats 4 Kids drive. 489-8763.

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