The lobby of the Embassy Theatre glows during the Festival of Trees. The festival will be adjusted this year for one-way traffic patterns.

The Embassy Theatre in Fort Wayne has made last-minute changes to the 36th annual Festival of Trees, extending days and hours to accommodate crowds during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Founded in 1984, the Festival of Trees supports ongoing operational and restoration efforts for the Embassy Theatre Foundation. The festival is the organization’s largest annual fundraising event.

In an announcement distributed Thursday, the Embassy said the changes follow an executive order from Gov. Eric Holcomb and the Allen County Board of Health’s reduction in total gathering capacity to 100 or less. “The Embassy encourages the public to think of this as a unique opportunity to have an exclusive and intimate holiday experience that can be enjoyed without crowds while still supporting the Embassy Theatre during a challenging year,” the Embassy said.

The Embassy announced these changes:

• The Embassy “made the hard decision to cancel all stage performances” so that it can adhere to the reduced capacity.

• There will be no screening of Irving Berlin’s classic “White Christmas” on Thanksgiving Day.

• The Embassy is extending some hours and adding additional days.

• The festival opens Wednesday, Nov.25, now starting at 4 p.m.

• Days are being added to accommodate additional patrons: Thursday, Dec.3, through Sunday, Dec. 6.

• Tickets are purchased for timed entry in 90-minute increments for all days from Nov. 25 – Dec. 2. Tickets are purchased for timed entry in 60-minute increments for all days from Dec. 3-6. This allows the Embassy to thoroughly clean and sanitize between each time period.

COVID-19 considerations

The Embassy is following board of health guidelines for patrons, staff and volunteers:

• Facial coverings — Masks or face shields are required. No exceptions. Any patron unwilling to wear a mask is encouraged to buy a virtual ticket.

• Ticketing — There are a limited number of tickets for each 60- or 90-minute time block. The organization encourages patrons to purchase in advance. If a time block is filled when a patron arrives, entry may be available in another timed entry block.

• Cleaning the building — Between each 60- or 90-minute time block there will be rigorous cleaning of frequently touched surfaces along the traffic path as well as in restrooms.

• Virtual Santa — Santa Claus is still joining the festival virtually, and families will be able to see and talk to him and take a picture with Santa in Santa Land.

• One-way traffic — All walking traffic patterns will be one-way. The trees will be positioned to facilitate this pattern. Signage will be clear and staff will be available to clarify the walking path.

• Food— No food or beverages will be sold or allowed in the festival so that patrons can remain masked.

• Online program — The Festival of Trees program booklet will be available online this year to create a touchless experience by scanning a QR code or accessing it on the Embassy web page. The Embassy encourages patrons to access this guide through their phone or device. Voting for favorite trees and entries for raffles will also be online.

• Virtual Festival of Trees — For those unable to attend the Festival of Trees, a video tour will be available as a ticketing option. The virtual ticket will be for sale on Nov. 25 and the online tour will be available for viewing Dec. 3, 2020, through Jan. 1, 2021. (A link will be emailed to virtual ticket buyers to share the video tour of the trees.)

• Individuals 65 or older or those in high-risk categories are encouraged to not attend the event. Patrons are asked to assess their health before arriving and stay home if ill or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. Any patrons who arrive at the Embassy ill or displaying symptoms of COVID-19 will be sent home. “While the Embassy works hard to reduce exposure to COVID-19, the public is assuming the inherent risk of possible exposure,” the theater said.

The Embassy encourages patrons to visit for the most up-to-date source of information.

Tickets: $10/adult (13 or older); $5/youth (ages 1-12); children under 1 year old are free (ticket required); $25 Virtual Tour (video available Dec. 3). Tickets are available now for purchase at the STAR Bank box office at the Embassy Theatre at 125 W. Jefferson Blvd. in downtown Fort Wayne (260-424-5665), as well as

2020 Festival of Trees hours and schedule of events:

• Wednesday, Nov. 25, Opening Day. Open to public 4-9:30 p.m.

• Thursday, Nov. 26, Thanksgiving Day. Open to public 2-9:30 p.m.

• Friday, Nov. 27-Sunday, Nov. 29. Open to public 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. From 8-10:45 a.m. it’s Breakfast with Santa. Separate event ticket required ($30 per person). Includes a private tour of the festival before it opens to the public and then Breakfast with Santa programming to begin around 9 a.m. Local food vendor featured as well as a holiday performance from the Fort Wayne Youtheatre. Patrons should enter through theater lobby. Seating is very limited.

• Monday, Nov. 30-Wednesday, Dec. 2. Open to public 9 a.m.-83:0 p.m.

• Thursday, Dec. 3. Open to public 9 a.m.-8 p.m.

• Friday, Dec. 4, and Saturday, Dec. 5. Open to public 11 a.m.-8:45 p.m.

• Sunday, Dec. 6. Final day. Open to public 2:15-4:30 p.m.

The 2020 Festival Trees is made possible by support from Fort Wayne Metals, Indiana Michigan Power, Chuck and Lisa Surack and Sweetwater and SDI.

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