Porter Sanford Performing Arts Center to host first Festival of Trees

David T. Manuel has a newfound love: his surroundings at the Porter Sanford III Performing Arts & Community Center because now everyday feels like Christmas. The center’s lobby is decorated with lovely Christmas trees. The Christmas pines are a part of The Festival of Trees, a first for the South DeKalb center.

The festival runs Nov. 30 through Dec. 22 and is free of charge. Manuel, the center’s executive director, says he is happy to bring an Atlanta tradition to DeKalb.

“I’m really excited because I’ve been to so many festival of trees in Atlanta, it feels good to have one here in our community for DeKalb,” Manuel said. “This is a great way to bring awareness to our programs and serve as a way to bring the community together to have a place they can come to celebrate and fellowship during the holidays. We will always have great singers and dancers here, but now we have the opportunity to show off some great trees, too.”

The community center’s Festival of Trees is the brainchild of Anja Williams, managing director of the Porter Sanford Performing Arts Center. Home Depot donated the trees and local businesses each paid $50 to decorate a tree for a good cause.

“The money raised from the trees will go to underprivileged children who want to attend the center’s programs,” said Williams. “After the trees leave the center, they will be donated to foster home families who are in need of a Christmas tree.”

Yvonne Gunter, a Decatur floral design artist, loved the idea and signed up to sponsor one of the trees. Her daughter, Ebony Reed, and 12-year-old granddaughter, Leah Goodman, helped her decorate their tree.

“I felt this was a great event to get involved in. We just love Christmas trees and this is a way to show my daughter and granddaughter the importance of giving back to the community,” said Gunter, who decorated their tree with silver and white ornaments. “This festival is a great way for my family to show our creativity.”

At the festival’s Nov. 30 kickoff, attendees can enjoy holiday refreshments, hear inspirational poems from Hank Stewart and other local poets, visit a kid’s zone with family activities and even meet Santa. Attendees also can pick up some workout tips from choreographer “Stepp Stewart” of the televised Dr. Oz Show.

The kickoff also will include performances by the Lou Walker Senior Center’s chorus; the Martin Luther King High School jazz band; Sera Hill of NBC’s “The Voice;” and a short performance from the cast of “A Soulful Christmas,” an African American musical about two children on Christmas Eve that will be staged at the Porter Sanford Center.

DeKalb County Commissioner Larry Johnson, District 3, also is getting in on the center’s holiday fun, hosting his sixth annual community tree lighting during the festival.

The Porter Sanford III Performing Arts & Community Center is located at 3181 Rainbow Drive, Decatur. The Nov. 30 Festival of Trees kickoff will begin at 7 p.m.