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Mix AND Mingle: A bevy of holiday happenings awaits during the yuletide season at Jackson's Westin Hotel.

Last December, a hotel in the heart of downtown Jackson transformed into a magical holiday destination. The 2018 Festival of Trees, a monthlong celebration featuring impressive events and activities, offered patrons the chance to create memories with family and friends.

"The Westin Jackson created the Festival of Trees because we wanted to be involved in the community and provide a place for travelers coming from out of town. We also wanted residents to be able to come together and enjoy the holiday season," says Jalesia Duran, the hotel's marketing manager.

As guests entered the hotel, they were welcomed by the warm scents of pine and cinnamon drifting throughout the lobby. A dozen magnificent Christmas trees lined the halls, individually decorated by Mississippi interior designers. Most importantly, the trees were auctioned at the hotel's Holiday Charity Gala. All of the proceeds were given to Friends of Children's Hospital, benefiting Batson Children's Hospital.

Nancy Price, a prominent Jackson designer, created a showstopping tree. Gold and crystal antique fragments glowed against the green, while a striking blue ribbon wrapped around the branches. "Last year's tree was inspired by my passion for reviving antique pieces that at one time had such a special meaning and giving them a new life. The craftsmanship of the pieces that we used as ornaments is something that cannot be matched and is sometimes under-appreciated. It was such a joy to let them 'shine,'" smiles Price.

The Holiday Charity Gala, a ticketed event, truly sparked the spirit of Christmas. Decked in their finest formalwear, locals and hotel guests enjoyed seasonal fare, fresh egg nog, and holiday desserts, including pound cake and a stunning croquembouche. Christmas lights sparkled above the outdoor Trustmark Skating Rink, creating a downtown winter wonderland.

Children not only flocked to The Westin Jackson for the chance to glide across the ice-skating rink but also for two memorable events: Breakfast with Santa and the Sugar Plum Fairy Tea. The hotel's Estelle Wine Bar & Bistro welcomed jolly old St. Nick, while guests dined on a Southern holiday buffet, boasting fresh cinnamon rolls and blueberry pancakes. Of course, no visit with Santa was complete without cozy chats and photographs with the man in the red suit.

The Sugar Plum Fairy Tea, created by The Westin Jackson and Ballet Mississippi, charmed ballet fans. Dancers from the Nutcracker Ballet mingled with guests, turning magical characters from a childhood favorite into reality. "There were so many touching moments from the Sugar Plum Fairy Tea," smiles Duran. "I witnessed three generations of family members spending time together. It was so special to see a grandmother, mother, and daughter creating memories that will last forever. That really touched my heart."

As children took photographs with dolls from the party scene, the Nutcracker, and the Sugar Plum Fairy, faux flurries danced in the air, creating festive and memorable moments. "My favorite memory from last year's magical event was the look on the children's faces when the snow fell outside during the meet and greet with the Nutcracker characters," smiles Elizabeth VanDeburgh, associate executive director of Ballet Mississippi.

The inaugural Festival of Trees highlighted the season and established central Mississippi as a true holiday destination. The 2019 Festival of Trees promises to be just as spectacular. This year's theme is "Whimsical Winter Wonderland," and visitors can expect The Westin Jackson to be filled with shimmering blue, white, and silver decor. The hotel is proud to partner with Children's of Mississippi as this year's local charity.

Exciting new events will accompany many favorites from last year. One large tree will adorn the hotel's lobby this year, created by Nancy Price Interior Design. "After the amazing response to the tree that we had the honor of decorating for last year's festival, we were thrilled to be asked to decorate The Westin Jackson's lobby tree for this year's holiday season! We are always so happy to do anything that may benefit our local charities," says Price.

The Festival of Trees event is a perfect way to bring the community and travelers together to toast the holidays in Mississippi's capital. Stop by the hotel for a hot chocolate or a spin around the rink. Brunch with Santa or spend time with family at the Sugar Plum Fairy Tea.

"The Westin Jackson is thrilled to be hosting the second annual Festival of Trees," says Joseph Simpson, the hotel's owner. "It's an amazing event that allows local businesses and artists to showcase their unique talents in such beautiful ways. The Westin is a home away from home, but this showing is also about our local community--a place where friends, family, and children can come together to celebrate the Christmas season."

This year's festival kicks off on December 4 with a Tree Lighting Ceremony at The Westin Jackson.

For more information, please visitjacksonfestivaloftrees.com or call 601.968.8200.
POUND CAKE

4 sticks butter, softened
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. With a mixer, beat
butter at medium speed with whisk attachment
until creamy. Butter will be light yellow. Gradually
add sugar, eggs, and extracts until light and fluffy,
and it turns almost white in color. Add flour to
butter mixture alternating with milk, beginning
and ending with flour, using slow speed on the
mixer. Pour into a greased Bundt pan and bake
at one hour.
Yield: 16 servings


Caption: OPPOSITE, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: Guests marvel at the incredible Christmas trees during last year's Holiday Charity Gala. A tree designed by Nancy Price steals the spotlight, wrapped in blue ribbon and dripping in lovely antique fragments. A towering croquembouche is surrounded by tasty desserts at the Holiday Charity Gala.

Caption: Six stunning Christmas trees, each decorated by a local interior designer, set the stage for a magical holiday season at The Westin Jackson.

Caption: Guests mingle in their holiday best during the 2018 Holiday Charity Gala, toasting the season beneath gorgeous, glittering trees.
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Article Details
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Author:Walters, Mitchell
Publication:Mississippi Magazine
Article Type:Recipe
Geographic Code:1U6MS
Date:Nov 1, 2019
Words:1000
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