Torrance Memorial Medical Center Foundation

Founded in 1925, Torrance Memorial Medical Center is a 443-bed, nonprofit medical center established to provide quality health care services to the residents of the South Bay, Peninsula and Harbor communities. This world-class regional hospital, affiliated with Cedars-Sinai Health System, includes an extensive integrated system of physicians and comprehensive medical services to provide coordinated communication and a continuum of care. 

The Torrance Memorial Medical Center Foundation is the hospital’s fundraising arm. Its annual Holiday Festival is an important community tradition and a cornerstone in Torrance Memorial’s fundraising efforts. Since its inception, the festival has raised nearly $16 million to support the hospital. 

The first festival was held in 1984 as a four-day event called Festival of Trees. It has grown into a six-day event that includes decorated trees and unique holiday finds for sale, talented performances and other festivities. All proceeds from the 2023 Holiday Festival, located in the white tent at Skypark Drive and Medical Center Drive, support the Melanie and Richard Lundquist Emergency Department.

Describe some of the 2023 Holiday Festival events.

The festival includes beautifully decorated trees, entertainment, holiday gifts, children’s activities, a food court and special ticketed events. The Heroes Tree is a 12-foot beautifully decorated tree in the Grand Lobby of Lundquist Tower. You can honor a hero in your life and be recognized with digital signage at this tree. Our online auction is open for bidding November 16–21. Enjoy free admission to the festival all day on December 2 by bringing a new, unwrapped toy for the police and fire departments’ toy drive. Get your tickets now for the limited-seating fashion show and the black tie-optional dinner gala.

What is the process for creating the Holiday Festival tent each year?

Lisa Takata, Torrance Memorial Foundation special events and Patrons program manager: While the Holiday Festival tent is magical, it takes a village to create. My team and I have the planning, installation and teardown of the tent down to a science. Resurrecting the tent and subfloor starts the week before Thanksgiving and is a four- to five-day process. In addition, the daily floorplan turnovers for the various activities require thoughtful planning and coordination that begin six months before the event.

For instance, the fashion show needs a runway, which is replaced by a dance floor for community entertainers the next day. The gala bar area in the evening becomes the kids zone area in the daytime. The gala cashier area becomes a food court for public days. Lighting and sound needs change daily as well. It can get challenging, but it’s very rewarding to be a part of creating the holiday magic. 

Tell us about the volunteers who help with the Holiday Festival.

Bev George, Holiday Festival co-chair: Much like Santa’s workshop, the Holiday Festival has its elves in the form of dedicated volunteers who work year-round to craft, design and plan tree-themed ornaments, decorations and other delights. I’ve been the festival’s co-chair since 2011 and enjoy organizing our volunteers. I have extensive career experience including crafting, accounting and trade show expertise in demonstrating, marketing, purchasing, pricing and selling products. All I did in my career led to this, and I’m so happy to be a part of it.

Thirty retired volunteers who want to give back gather year-round every Thursday. We do a lot—from inventorying in January to making mini trees, garlands, decorations and ornaments. We have a pricing team, a craft group and glittering queens for the poinsettias. Everyone has a job. 

How can families get involved?

Carolyn Snyder, Holiday Festival co-chair: Family time is a big part of the festival. Parents watch children perform in musical groups. Grandchildren hold their grandparents’ hands and walk (or race) around the winter wonderland. And volunteers often work with family members. At one point, I had several generations in my family working together on this festival. My mother, four children, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren decorated trees. My family’s favorite moments are seeing the faces of the people when they walk into the tent for the first time and their eyes open and they go, “Ahh!” It’s worth it.

What are some of your favorite festival memories?

Carolyn: Every festival has a story. I’ve been involved with the Holiday Festival since the beginning, so sharing just a couple memories is tricky! Rain has been a consistent theme—it rains almost every year, usually during setup. One year The Los Angeles Times wrote: “The Torrance Festival of Trees is L.A.’s answer to the drought.” Another consistent theme is Torrance Bakery’s treats. They are always a huge hit—not just with human patrons. One year, Torrance Bakery made gingerbread houses and put them on a tree. Birds flew into the tent and thought the gingerbread houses were so good, they ate them all! Torrance Bakery had to bake all new ones for the people who bought the tree. Of course, we don’t put baked goods on trees anymore!

Photographed by Shane O’Donnell