For Salt Laker Nina Taylor, the magic of the Festival of Trees started 19 years ago. That's when she and her mother first swaddled an evergreen tree in Christmas trimmings for the annual Primary Children's Medical Center event.

Now 17 trees later, the decorating is just another part of the holiday season, as constant as most family's turkey recipe. "We liked doing it so much that we kept doing it," she said.After the first five trees, the ideas stopped coming. Enthusiasm wanned. There's only so much that can be done with evergreen branches. But a niece who needed surgery shortly after birth injected a necessary transfusion to the family project. "Then it just became a tradition, I guess."

Nina Taylor's family tradition will be just one of 300 trees featured at the 20th annual Festival of Trees.

Among the forest of decorated trees planned this year is one featuring collectible postage stamps, another one featuring Ninja Turtles and one titled "Utterly Pink." Individuals, families, church and civic groups decorate the trees, which are sold to finance the medical care of needy children. According to Elda Rae Gunn, board chairwoman for the event, more than $5 million has been raised for charity since the festival began in 1971.

The festival also includes the Gallery of Gifts, Sweet Shoppe, Kid's Korner, Gingerbread Village and holiday entertainment.

Taylor said the bulk of the artistic work on the family's tree is done by her brother, Steve Rich, a sculptor. Her sister, Mary Lynne Jensen, and her three sisters-in-law are also major contributors, all of whom have taken turns over the years to serve as "brains of the outfit."

Other adults in the family also have their own responsibilities.

"My husband, Grant, lights the tree, that's his job," Taylor says. "My brother, John, buys lunch. My brother, Matt, brings the card table, the ladder and the broom. This is very important.

"And my mother and dad come down and say `That's good.' "


(Additional information)

Festival of Trees

The Festival of Trees will be held in the Salt Palace Exhibition Hall, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 28, through Saturday, Dec. 1. Tickets are $3 for adults and $1.75 for children.