Behind the Scenes of Cape Fear Festival of Trees

Lower Cape Fear LifeCare’s Cape Fear Festival of Trees is one of Southeastern North Carolina’s longest-running and favorite holiday events. The festival, which started more than 30 years ago, is also the agency’s longest-running fundraiser. The fundraiser began not long after the nonprofit was formed as a way to support its mission.

While the festival has had many homes during the last three decades, including: the Wilmington Hilton, Cameron Art Museum, and Mayfaire Town Center. It has always offered guests a forest of festively decorated, themed trees. The festival’s latest host is the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher – a venue that seems perfectly suited for showing off the trees at their finest.

Planning for Cape Fear Festival of Trees starts months in advance with sponsor recruitment. Businesses, organizations, groups, and individuals are all welcome to sponsor a tree. Sponsors get to pick their theme and decorate their tree on the set-up date. Sponsors unable to decorate their tree can request assistance by way of LCFL volunteers who will decorate for them.

Transformation of the venue takes just a couple of days as sponsors, team members and volunteers transport, unload, set-up, and decorate all the trees. It’s a festive flurry of activity as everyone pulls together to get trees decorated and ready for opening day.

After the festival begins, a special event is hosted just to honor and thank sponsors for their support of our mission and the event. Jingle with the Jellies offers sponsors and their teams the opportunity to mix, mingle and enjoy the festival and aquarium.

Special “Memorial” trees are part of each Cape Fear Festival of Trees. These trees allow family members and friends to honor and remember loved ones by writing a message on a paper dove and adding it to one of the trees. Often, guests will also make a donation in memory of their loved one(s) as LCFL receives no proceeds from the sale of admission tickets. Wreaths, handmade by volunteers and team members, are also offered for sale as a way of raising additional funds for the nonprofit’s mission.

Proceeds from Cape Fear Festival of Trees go to work immediately in local communities ensuring high-quality care and support is available to individuals and families living with a serious or life-limiting illness. Lower Cape Fear LifeCare never refuses care based on someone’s ability to pay. Programs like the nonprofit’s extensive grief care offerings, for adults and children, are also funded through fundraisers like the festival.

It truly takes a community to ensure people in the region have access to care and support at a time when they need it most. Cape Fear Festival of Trees is certainly a prime example of individuals, businesses, and organizations coming together for a common goal.

Want to get involved?

Contact Lower Cape Fear LifeCare Foundation for tree sponsorship availability at

Volunteer to decorate trees and greet festival guests by calling 910-796-7900.

Want to go?

Find out dates and times of this year’s Cape Fear Festival of Trees by visiting our calendar of events.