I have always enjoyed decorating for the holidays, any holiday, but especially the Christmas season.  Ripley’s makes my house decorating seem amateur to say the least!  Putting up 55 trees over the course of two nights takes a village! 

Over 100 volunteers from all departments, plus loved ones all come together after closing to transform the aquarium to a “Festival of Trees”.  Each tree represents one of the 50 states with the ornaments, color schemes and accessories all representative.  To give you a peak in - New York has Statue of Liberty ornaments hanging among various professional sports representation, Kentucky has horses and of course University of KY ornaments and colors, Louisiana would not be complete without MardiGras masks and purple, gold and green feathers.  The Alaska Tree (everyone’s favorite) glistens in all white while Oklahoma has a longhorn skull for a topper. 

Thoughts of the big day begin just after they are taken down the night of New Year’s Day when ornaments, ribbons, feathers and more begin to be ordered.  Next the blueprint plan of the layout where each tree will sit begins the process.  Staff begins putting the actual trees together in the back warehouse a few days before so that evening each tree can be carefully put together.  Boxes upon boxes line the walls of the warehouse diligently labeled from the year before.

As the doors get locked, staff begins delivering supplies to each “station” as happy elves are ready to get to work.  Each group knows which trees they are assigned to beautify and most have a connection to at least one tree in the bunch.  Their home state, where they went to college, a place they visited and fell in love with or just a tree they think looks fabulous! Regardless each tree gets the same TLC while being worked on.

As I wander around watching the process, I see smiling faces with red sweaters, Santa hats and other festive accessories, Holiday music plays and everyone is busy.  It’s absolutely magical to see each tree come together and a group of people working towards one goal!  Pizza and soda is served as boxes get packed up and carted off transitioning Ripleys’s Aquarium into Ripley’s Festival of Trees.   

Festival of Trees is included with your regular aquarium admission and the trees will be on display, now until Jan.