Danville Festival of Trees offering chance to build elf-esteem

Danville Festival of Trees offering chance to build elf-esteem

DANVILLE — In the past, families who participated in the Festival of Trees' "Polar Express" event were greeted at the David S. Palmer Arena in Danville by close to 100 of Santa's elves.

This year, event organizers and the city of Danville hope to increase that number to at least 763.

That's because they're attempting to break the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest elf gathering in one location.

"The festival is already the premier event in Danville that everyone always looks forward to," said Roxy Reed, who is organizing the elf gathering and directing/producing the "Polar Express." "This is a way to build on that ... and for everyone, in the spirit of Christmas and community, to come together and do something that's really easy and amazing at the same time."

The Presence United Samaritans Medical Center Foundation's 2013 Festival of Trees runs at the arena from Saturday through Nov. 21.

Since it started in 1996, the festival has raised more than $3.5 million for the foundation's outreach programs — Faith in Action and Faith in Action South, I Sing the Body Electric, the HALO Project, Women Aware, Young Women Aware and Young Men Aware. The programs served more than 26,500 people in the 2012 fiscal year.

The current Guinness world record is held by Ammonford Town, England, which gathered 762 participants dressed as elves.

The attempt to break it is set for 5:30 p.m. Sunday in front of the arena at 100 W. Main St. during the second running of the "Polar Express" — itself a bus ride that dramatizes Chris Van Allsburg's book by the same name.

Check-in is between 4 and 5:30 p.m. at the entrance to the Old National Bank parking lot, across the street from the arena. Participants will receive a wristband and be counted. The arena's electronic sign will scroll the elf count in real time during the check-in period.

In order to be counted officially, participants must wear red or green clothing or a combination. They may also wear a pointy elf or Santa hat and pointy elf ears. (500 hats will be available at check-in, but people are encouraged to bring their own.)

Children under 12 must be accompanied by a parent or adult.

"Anyone can participate," said Reed, who invited folks from Champaign County and western Indiana to join in. She would like to see 1,000 participants. "We need everyone's help.

Once buses full of children and their families arrive at the arena, the Danville Sweet Adelines will lead the crowd in "Silent Night" and "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town."

Though a Guinness representative won't be on hand to officiate the event, Reed said, Danville Public Safety Director Larry Thomason, another witness and a notary will verify the final tally. The event must also be videotaped, Reed said.

Also new this year is a 20-foot-tall book tree, which will be the centerpiece of the arena floor. The tree, which will be filled with donated children's books, is replacing a tall tree that was filled with stuffed animals.

Throughout the festival, children can guess how many books are on the tree. The child who comes closest to the actual number will receive a gift certificate to a local restaurant.

After the festival, the books will be donated.

"I hope the kids come in, see the tree and are excited and identify some of the books they have at home" or want to check out from the library, said Julie Puzey, who is coordinating the effort.

For more information about the Festival of Trees and tickets, go to www.presencehealth.org/festivaloftrees.

2013 STAGE SCHEDULE

Saturday
— 11 a.m.: Wabash Valley Area Band.
— 1 p.m.: David Chicken.
— 1:30 p.m.: Red Mask Children's Theater.
— 2 p.m.: The Laurel School of Dance.
— 3 p.m.: Danville Barbershop Chorus.
— 4 p.m.: Joni Cundiff.
— 5 p.m.: David Chicken.
— 6 p.m.: 'Polar Express' (starts at Village Mall).
— 8 p.m.: holiday music and light show.

Sunday
— Noon: Danville Light Opera Chorus.
— 1 p.m.: Stacy Sprague.
— 2 p.m.: Jodi's Dance Unlimited.
— 3 p.m.: Rick Randles.
— 4 p.m.: Bridgit Bateman.
— 5 p.m.: Polar Express (starts at Village Mall).
— 7 p.m.: Holiday music and light show.

Monday
— Noon: Danville High School Madrigal Singers.
— 1 p.m.: Westville Junior High Chorus.
— 2 p.m.: Mike Harmon.
— 3:30 p.m.: Bridgit Bateman.
— 4 p.m.: Sarah Kasalis.
— 5 p.m.: Carolyn Smith.
— 6 p.m.: Rick Randles.
— 7 p.m.: Danville Chapter of Sweet Adelines.
— 8 p.m.: Westville High School Singing Tigers.

Tuesday
— Noon: Southview Middle School Music Department.
— 1 p.m.: Judith Giacoma Elementary School Chorus.
— 3 p.m.: Mike Harmon.

Wednesday
— 10:30 a.m.: Bismarck-Henning Music Department.
— Noon: North Ridge Radiant Reds and Red Peppers.
— 1:30 p.m.: Danville High School Band and Orchestra.

Thursday
— 3 p.m.: Deakin Axtell.
— 4 p.m.: Bryan Schroeder.
— 5 p.m.: Rodman Rail.
— 7 p.m.: Stacy Sprague.
— 8 p.m.: Holiday light and music show.

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