Usually it's what's under the tree -- not the tree itself -- that gets us excited during the holiday season. But the organizer of the annual Enchanted Forest dinner knows that no proper Christmas celebration can commence without the perfect evergreen, and he'll prove it by showcasing 14 ornately decorated trees.
"I've always enjoyed the holiday season," said organizer Tom Xavier.
"But the Enchanted Forest has really magnified it. Christmas for me now is like when Dorothy steps out of her house and into the Land of Oz and everything becomes Technicolor."
Xavier spends the bulk of his year ensuring that the many guests who attend Enchanted Forest, as well as the recipients of the charitable donations it generates, have an unforgettable holiday experience. This year's theme is "a Christmas classic," and he's going for a classy/swanky '60s vibe.
The black-tie-optional affair attracted nearly 300 party-goers last year and generated more than $16,000 for Love Water, Kern County Fire Fighters Muster Association and the Burn Survivors Trust.
"It was a sold-out event; everyone generally had a great time, and we heard nothing but positive comments. Each year it seems like it's just getting better and better."
For its 2013 incarnation, Enchanted Forest will feature 14 ornately decorated Christmas trees (hence, the "forest") to be raffled off -- more than ever before. Each of the trees is decorated by a local designer and bears its own theme, such as "12 Days of Christmas," "Disney" or, appropriately enough, "The Wizard of Oz." Raffle tickets start at $5.
In addition to the trees, Xavier will hold silent and live auctions.
"This year, our auction items are by far some of the best we've ever had," he said. "Lowe's donated an entire outdoor kitchen that's worth over $3,000, we have Lakers tickets, we have movies and dinner out for a year -- people come here to get their Christmas shopping done in one easy swoop. We've really got something for everybody."
In addition to collecting toys for a transportation program run by Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center, Xavier will donate proceeds from the evening to the Wounded Heroes Fund.
"During the holidays I get really sentimental so to speak, and when you think about what these men and women have done for us, I think it's only fitting that they get recognized. These truly are our unsung heroes."
While Xavier sets the personal challenge of trying to outdo himself each year, he hopes to keep the guest list relatively contained in order to preserve the cozy, intimate feel of the event.
"We've hit that stride now where we know what to do and do it well," he said. "But I don't want to have this huge, ginormous event where everyone is just a number. I like to try and go around and say 'hello' to almost everybody, and I don't want to lose that. But just wait for the 15th anniversary -- it's going to be phenomenal."