The "season to be jolly" is in the not-too-distant future, but officials of the Christmastime charity Festival of Trees are none too happy with Salt Palace management for booking another holiday festival during its dates.
Although they're resigned to sharing Salt Palace facilities this holiday season with the Dickens Festival, a Festival of Trees delegation led by chairwoman Elda Rae Gunn asked Salt Lake County commissioners Friday to protect the trees festival in future years by granting it exclusive booking dates.But Dickens Festival organizer Vickie Nelson said she doesn't see how her event, which takes a Victorian London theme, competes with the Festival of Trees. She hopes the two festivals can cooperate in future years on creating a family Christmas experience in downtown Salt Lake City.
The Festival of Trees delegation also asked commissioners to waive all or part of the $58,000 rental fee the county-owned facility is charging Festival of Trees for its Nov. 30 to Dec. 3 charity event.
Festival of Trees organizers feel the Dickens Festival, scheduled for to run Nov. 25 to Dec. 3 in a separate Salt Palace location, is a competing Christmas event that potentially could siphon off revenue that would otherwise go to the trees festival and the charity it benefits, Primary Children's Medical Center.
Last year, $463,000 in proceeds from the trees festival, which auctions ornately decorated Christmas trees donated by organizations and businesses, was donated to the hospital to pay for charitable care of children whose families could not otherwise afford it.
Festival of Trees organizers are indignant because they feel the Dickens Festival, a commercial venture designed to make money for promoters and vendors, intentionally booked its Salt Palace dates to benefit from the crowd-drawing power of the tree festivals.
Last year the Festival of Trees drew 80,000 people during its Salt Palace run, while the Dickens Festival - which was held in the Salt Palace a week later - "really bombed," the delegation said.
"I feel strongly the only reason (the Dickens Festival) wanted in the Salt Palace at the same time as Festival of Trees is to build on our coattails," Gunn told commissioners.
But Nelson denied that, and said her event is more complementary than competing.
"At the Dickens Festival we have craftsmen and entertainers in Victorian costume trying to talk in English accents as they sell their wares and perform," she said. "At the Festival of Trees they sell trees. How are we competing?
Nelson said she tried to book other halls, but couldn't find one large enough to house the Dickens Festival that met safety codes. She tried to book Salt Palace dates after the Festival of Trees was over, but other events already were booked into the facilities.
"We don't want to cause any problems for Festival of Trees," Nelson said. "What they do is wonderful. We offered to do a joint ticket with them, so families could come downtown and park once and go to both festivals for $5 or something. We thought that would be a neat family Christmas experience, but they weren't interested."