Start of the season

Visit Bucks County’s 12th annual TreeFest is officially underway, getting locals into the holiday spirit

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the Bucks County Visitor Center. The lights are strung, wreaths are hung and the big man in the red suit is here, ready to listen to the wishes of local children. All of this can only mean one thing … Visit Bucks County’s 12th annual TreeFest is officially underway.

The most wonderful time of the year: Visit Bucks County recently kicked off its 12th annual TreeFest, a six-week-long holiday celebration at the Bucks County Visitor Center. Representatives from 20 businesses and attractions decorated trees to show off their company’s personality, and guests are able to vote on their favorites. SAMANTHA BAMBINO / TIMES PHOTO

The six-week holiday celebration kicked off in a special grand opening ceremony last Tuesday with the excitement of children (and adults) at an all-time high. Upon entering the Visitor Center, guests were instantly awed by the massive display of exquisitely decorated trees. As its name suggests, this is the highlight of TreeFest. Days prior, representatives of 20 businesses and attractions from across Bucks County spent hours making their respective trees a true reflection of their organization. Through unique decorations and themes, visitors are able to get a sense of what each is all about.

For example, the theme of Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Museum & Library’s tree is “Happy Hol-EWE-days.” Representing its new exhibit “The Grundy Mill: The Best of the Worst,” its ornaments contain information on Industrial-era Bristol.

The “Blue Star Tree” of the Bucks County Children’s Museum honors the 250 dedicated service men and women and their children who visited the museum during the summer season. The attraction is a “Blue Star Museum,” offering free summer admission to military members and their families.

Possibly the most out-of-the-box tree is “Bridal Glamour” created by Sposabella Bridal, an award-winning local bridal salon. Rather than go the traditional, triangular tree route, Sposabella shaped theirs in the form of a wedding gown. Beautiful, white and sparkly, one may not even realize it’s a Christmas tree from afar.

The highlight of TreeFest is Trainpops Attic’s “Unsung Heros,” which stands on a platform in a section all its own. Through its theme, Trainpops pays tribute to all fire rescue teams, not only in Bucks County but across the nation.

During the grand opening celebration, guests walked among the trees displayed in the 5,000-square-foot gallery, pen and paper in hand to vote on their favorites. In a closing ceremony on Thursday, Jan. 4, the winning three will be announced, with each organization receiving a commemorative plaque.

At 6 p.m., there was a mass exodus as sirens were faintly heard coming up the road. This was no emergency. It was the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus on a fire truck, courtesy of the Bensalem Fire Department. As they stepped off the truck, the kids scrambled to get a glimpse of their holiday heroes.

Once the duo was inside the Visitor Center, they made their way to the center of the display as the lights went down and a silence filled the space. Suddenly, the trees were lit, illuminating the gallery in a breathtaking glow and officially marking the start of Bucks County’s holiday season.

After, Santa and Mrs. Claus made their way over to the long line of kids anxiously waiting to tell them what they’d like for Christmas. Each child was also able to get their picture taken with them free of charge. According to Visit Bucks County’s president, Jerry Lepping, VBC doesn’t see the need to have outlandish prices like at a mall. All he wants is for families to have a nice holiday experience without breaking the bank.

Santa will be available for pictures at the Visitor Center every Sunday afternoon from 1 to 3 p.m. through Dec. 17. On that final day, from 3 to 4 p.m., families can bring their pets to join in the fun, and animals of all kinds are welcome. Lepping reflected on one year when a guest brought a horse to meet Santa, though he said its “back end” was kept outside. With carpeted floors, he didn’t want to take any chances.

An ongoing initiative throughout TreeFest is “Holidays for Heroes,” a regional program hosted by the American Red Cross. Visitors can create generic “thank you” cards for local veterans, active duty and members of the Reserve and National Guard. They can choose from a variety of themes and write personal, heartfelt sentiments to bring some cheer and positivity this holiday season to those in the community who served our country.

A number of special events unique to TreeFest will also take place over the upcoming weeks. From Bensalem Library Storytime to performances by the Tutti Frutti Flute Group, Youth Orchestra of Bucks County and Delaware Valley Saxophone Quartet, there’s something to help get everyone into the holiday spirit.

The Bucks County Visitor Center is located at 3207 Street Road in Bensalem. For a full listing of TreeFest events, visit Throughout the holidays, visitors can vote for their favorite tree and share Santa photos on social media using the hashtag #BucksTreeFest. ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at