It was a Winter Wonderland. On Saturday night, hundreds of people gathered at the Clarion Inn for the 33rd Annual Festival of Trees, benefitting Special Olympics Wyoming.

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It was a night of Christmas trees and auction pleas. It was a chance to gather as a community for food, fellowship, and firs. More than anything, it was an opportunity to hear stories from some of our state's greatest athletes - the athletes of Special Olympics Wyoming.

"Normally, we focus on one particular athlete and family," said Tara Short, Vice President of Development for Special Olympics Wyoming. "This year, it'll be a little different. We're focusing on Special Olympics Wyoming mission overall, so we'll be highlighting our athletes that will be traveling to the 2022 USA Special Olympics Summer Games in Orlando, Florida next year. Our athletes will be greeting guests with their medals and they'll be talking about what games they train and compete in. It is going to be a fabulous evening."

And it was. Various athletes, both on stage and via video presentations shared their stories, telling the audience what sports they competed in, what they like most about competitions, and what Special Olympics means to them.

Not only did the athletes share their stories on stage. They also greeted guests at the doors and sat at the tables that were set up throughout the banquet hall. It was a night for these athletes to be celebrated, to be highlighted, and to be shown in the spotlight that they deserve.

"This is a celebration for them," Short stated.

Special Olympics Wyoming President and CEO Jen Haines served as the Master of Ceremonies and Heidi Foy acted as the auctioneer. Both women brought an air of excitement with them to the stage as they introduced the athletes and led the auction.

Various items were available for both a live and a silent auction, as were the Christmas trees themselves. Some of the trees went for more than $6,000. Some trees were even bid upon and then donated back to be bid upon again.

It was an unforgettable evening; one that was illuminated by the lights of a forest of Christmas trees.

33rd Annual Festival of Trees