Tree Fest 2019 2

People check out Christmas trees Dec. 7, 2019, at the Blue Mountain Conference Center, La Grande, during the annual Festival of Trees. The fundraising event for 2020 willl be virtual due to the coronavirus pandemic.

LA GRANDE — La Grande’s annual Festival of Trees began in 1987, the same year 800,000 people gathered at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to celebrate the span’s 50th anniversary.

Such a gathering would be impossible today during the COVID-19 pandemic, and so would a traditional Festival of Trees event, which have regularly attracted close to 1,000 people.

Yes fans of the annual celebration can relax. Soroptimist International of La Grande is moving its fundraiser online for 2020.

There will be no gala or live auction, but people will be able to purchase Christmas baskets and other holiday items to raise money for the charitable organization, which supports women and girls of the community. The online auction will run Dec. 6 at 1 pm. to Dec. 12. at 5 p.m.

“We had to think outside the box due to COVID-19. It is important that we are sensitive to the restrictions and health of our community,” Soroptimist member Shayla Rollins said in a press release.

The Festival of Trees has raised more than $600,000 for community projects during its history, said Di Lyn Larsen-Hill, also with the group. A high percentage of the funds have come from the auction of decorated Christmas trees at the festiva. No decorated trees will be sold at this year’s online auction. However, the services of a tree decorator will be. The tree decorator, a Soroptimist International member, will bring lights and ornaments to the home of the winning bidder and decorate their Christmas tree.

Soroptimist International of La Grande is modeling its online auction after a successful one the Soroptimist chapter in Hamilton, Montana, did earlier this year, Larsen-Hill said. The La Grande chapter contracted with Auctria, an online auction company, to create the upcoming online auction.

“This platform will be very interactive for our bidders. As soon as you place your bid it pops up, and when someone outbids you, you immediately receive an email and a text message so you can place a new bid anytime during that week,” Rollins said.

Bidders need to register for the online auction by going to or

Net profits will go toward the La Grande Soroptimist EOU Scholarship and Live Your Dream Awards for 2021. Past Soroptimist scholarship winners will be featured in imbedded videos throughout the online auction. For more information call Rollins at 541-910-5511 or Larsen-Hill at 541-963-5341 or send an email to

General assignment reporter

Beats include the communities of North Powder, Imbler, Island City and Union, education, Union County veterans programs and local history. Dick joined The Observer in 1983, first working as a sports and outdoors reporter.

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