Attendees of the Visalia Chamber of Commerce’s 37th Annual Christmas Tree Auction admire some of the trees available for bidding. Photo by David Castellon
Written by David Castellon
Dr. William Holvik and his wife tried to buy the Christmas tree Friday night, but his $6,000 bid was his limit.
Still, it wasn’t such bad news to lose, said Holvik’s, wife, Sahar, noting that the winning bid was $6,500, so more money would end up going to Hands in the Community, a Visalia-based nonprofit that had decorated the large, artificial Christmas tree.
The tree they had bid on was among 14 up for auction last week during the Visalia Chamber of Commerce’s 37th Annual Christmas Tree Auction at the Visalia Convention Center.
The trees, each elaborately decorated by a local charity, community group, high school booster club or other nonprofit, each sold for between $1,000 and $6,500, with one successful bidder putting a tree up for auction a second time during the event.
The tree auction garnered $45,400, though each nonprofit collected hundreds or thousands of dollars more through individuals and businesses sponsoring each tree, said Barbara Mayeda, who has chaired the fundraiser for the last 33 years.
Andrea Castro and her husband, Michael, successfully won their auction, paying $1,600 for a tree decorated by staff at Spirit 88.9, a nonprofit Visalia-based, Christian music radio station.
“Because it’s a beautiful tree, it’s a great organization. They give to the community,” Mayeda said of the reasons she and her husband bid on the tree, which she planned to put up in her home this holiday season.
But the big trees auction wasn’t the only way money was raised at the event, a black-tie and masquerade ball-themed gala that drew an estimated 1,200 people, most of whom paid $75 to $130 a ticket.
In addition, 13 smaller trees were decorated and sold in a silent auction, with two selling for $800 apiece, while 41 other items also were auctioned off.
Overall, Chamber officials said they raised overall $60,000, with the 14 nonprofits that decorated large trees and 16 others receiving portions of money raised from the event.
“On behalf of all the nonprofits involved, the Chamber wishes to thank the community and those donors who dug deep and found ways to impact the lives of many individuals in powerful, positive ways. Visalia’s legacy of generosity continues to confirm our faith in the community’s ability to come together and overcome,” Gail Zurek, president and CEO of the Visalia Chamber, said in a written statement.
“For many nonprofits, this event is the primary fundraiser they rely on to keep their operations running throughout the year,” the press release continues, adding that over the years, the annual event has raised close to $4.5 million.
In between the auctions, guests sampled food and drinks from 19 area restaurants from fine dining establishments to fast food — which included waiters and waitresses serving guests Jack in the Box tacos — and about 29 beverage companies that included wine and beer distributors.
Fourteen of the restaurants partnered with the nonprofits that had decorated the big trees, so they served their food — including shrimp dishes, pastas, chicken and sliders — in front of the individual trees.