BOX This year’s Festival of Trees is ‘Made’ for Minnesota

By Christina Killion Valdez

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

It’s Christmas morning every day lately at Cherie Jensen’s Rochester home — except Santa is a UPS delivery man and the gifts he bears will be given away.

Jensen, along with friends Maureen Bhaskaran and Cara Fox, are among 93 designers decorating trees for the Hiawatha Homes Foundation Festival of Trees.

In the past, the women have decorated Noah’s Ark-, movie-, beach- and Packers-Vikings-themed trees. This year they’re doing a "Minnesota Made," by coincidence during the state’s sesquicentennial.


"I wish we could say we planned it," Jensen said.

But they couldn’t have planned what happened.

Jensen sent letters to 30 Minnesota-based companies explaining the Festival of Trees and their idea. More than 20 responded, sending items for the tree, such as Old Dutch potato chips, Land ‘O’ Lakes hot chocolate packets, Polaris hats and a Pillsbury Dough Boy keychain.

Department 56, the company that makes Snowbabies and the light-up Villages, however, donated more than enough ornaments to fill an entire tree with "Krinkles by Patience Brewer" ornaments. The company sent 24 boxes filled with thousands of dollars worth of decorations, including stockings, nesting boxes and tree skirts.

"Everything has shoes," Jensen said, describing the whimsical ornaments. "I love shoes."

So suddenly the group was decorating two trees.

Jensen will also decorate a third tree, the eight-foot "Friendship Tree," showcasing the ornaments given to each contributor.

To prepare for today’s day-long setup, the women have been decorating the trees in Fox’s dining room. They hung state-shaped and loon-shaped cookie cutters, an eagle for the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, a Canada goose, a Gedney pickle hat from the state fair and ornaments filled with wild rice.


While each woman has different ideas of what is Minnesota, they do agree that they don’t like tinsel or the frilly stuff.

"We are not elegant, that’s not us," Jensen said. "We love to laugh."

And each year as they decorate, the women toss out ideas for themes for the next year.

While they’re already thinking "Krinkles part II" for next year, they did toy with doing a rubber ducky tree.

"Maureen and I are not as excited," Fox said of Jensen’s "Just Ducky Christmas" idea. "But she can talk us into almost anything."

If you go

What: Hiawatha Homes Foundation Festival of Trees

When: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, including Thanksgiving Day, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.


Where: Mayo Civic Center Exhibit Hall, Rochester.

Admission: $5 for adults, $4 for tour groups and seniors, $3 for children 12 and under, infants are free. Benefits Hiawatha Homes Foundation

Highlights: Display of 100 trees, gift shop, cafe and silent auction.

Special events

  • Opening Night Gala, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday. Admission $75, advanced reservations required, 289-8683.
  • Senior Citizens Day, Wednesday. Complimentary luncheon, fashion show 12:30 p.m., demonstrations 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Children’s Day, Friday. Carnival and crafts from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for an additional charge. Cookies and Milk with Santa, Group I at 5 p.m. Group II at 6 p.m. Limited to 30 children per group. Cost: $5. Advance reservations required, call 289-8683.
  • Dance Party, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, for people with disabilities, their friends and families. Free. Advance reservations required, call 289-8683.
  • Gingerbread Family Day, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
  • Home for the Holidays fashion show, 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Sunday.
  • Santa’s Cozy Corner, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

For more, go to

Hiawatha Homes Foundation

What To Read Next
Get Local