Utah’s annual Festival of Trees offers thousands of sweet treats

(Photo courtesy of Festival of Trees) The Sweet Shoppe helps fuel attendees at the Festival of Trees.

Three things fuel Utah’s annual Festival of Trees: an army of 30,000 dedicated volunteers, a generous community that donates more than 800 heartfelt and whimsically decorated Christmas trees, and a ton — literally — of sugar.

Here’s just a sampling of the treats sold inside the festival’s Sweet Shoppe from Dec. 4 through 7 at the

Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy:

  • 5,000 pounds of fudge in 49 flavors from traditional chocolate and mint swirl to the two newest concoctions of caramel apple and huckleberry cream.

  • 320 batches of divinity, requiring some 500 pounds of sugar.

  • More than 100 pounds of dipped items from caramels and nuts to toffee and cinnamon bears.

  • 20,000 deep-fried Utah scones, dusted with 35 pounds of cinnamon and 400 pounds of sugar.

  • 13,000 sweet rolls

  • 3,300 caramel apples.

  • 24 gallons of ice cream.

Festival of Trees • This annual fundraiser for Primary Children’s Hospital features 800 decorated trees — as well as wreaths, gingerbread houses, quilts, holiday centerpieces and a Sweet Shoppe with confections.

When • Wednesday-Saturday, Dec. 4-7, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.

Where • Mountain America Expo Center, 9575 S. State St., Sandy

Tickets • Adults, $7; seniors and children, 2-11, $4; Dec. 4 is family day and $20 will admit six immediate family members.

Parking • Free

More details • festivaloftreesutah.org

The sweet confections and edible treats will bring in more than $150,000, said co-chair Brooke Thompson.

It’s a fraction of the $2.8 million the festival raised last year for Primary Children’s Hospital, she said, but for the 100,000 attendees, the sweets are both a seasonal indulgence and a necessity.

“The festival kicks off the holiday season and has the treats we want to eat,” she said. “But you’ve also got to stay nourished walking up and down the aisles of trees.”

The festival, now in its 49th year, is thought to be the largest indoor display of decorated Christmas trees in the world. Through the decades, it has grown from a 60-tree display in the gym of the old armory on Salt Lake City’s Sunnyside Avenue to four-day gala that also includes displays of gingerbread houses, centerpieces, quilts, wreaths and outdoor playhouses.

There’s also live entertainment, a gift shop and an Elf Emporium with handmade gifts and games for children.

The whole festival runs on donations. Individuals, families, businesses and church groups donate the decorated trees and other items. Businesses donate paper and printing. Corporations provide trucks and drivers to help deliver trees, and volunteers donate ingredients and spend days making treats.

Several years ago, Intermountain Healthcare bought a large warehouse to store all the equipment needed to stage the festival. The space includes a commercial kitchen, where volunteers gathered to make the fudge, said Thompson.

“It took seven days — eight to 10 hours a day — to make it all.”

The divinity, which is made on site during the festival, might not have been served this year, save for the kindness of strangers, according to board member Lisa Brandow.

She and other board members realized in late November that they didn’t have the 500 pounds of sugar they needed for the nougatlike confection. They sent emails, texts and phone calls asking for donations.

Utahns came through, dropping off bags and bags — totaling 1,000 pounds of sugar. It was enough to fill the back of Brandow’s SUV. She posted a photo on Facebook, labeling it “Festival Miracles.”

“It’s enough sugar for this year,” she said, “but we’ll have enough for next year as well.”