It’s not Halloween yet, but since back to May, Kim Van Scyoc has had Christmas on the brain.

That’s when the super friendly Park View woman took on the formidable task as Festival of Trees (FOT) administrator for Quad City Arts. That beloved holiday tradition (coming up Nov. 19-27 at the Davenport RiverCenter) is the largest fundraiser of the year for the nonprofit, which serves six counties in the region.

A 56-year-old native of Dixon, Iowa, Van Scyoc went to North Scott High and has a communications degree from St. Ambrose. Before joining the thousands-strong FOT team (in its 37th year), she was a preschool teacher in Eldridge for 12 years.

“My favorite memory of Festival of Trees is that, my son’s birthday is in November and his whole little life, he thought the parade was for him,” she said Friday. This year’s big parade in downtown Davenport starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19.

The Festival itself, Van Scyoc’s son Jack thought it was also a birthday present for him. “It’s a family affair; we go every year.”

Kim Van Scyoc at the Quad City Arts Gallery, 1715 2nd Ave., Rock Island (photo by Jonathan Turner).

“We just love it – it’s so much fun. It kicks off the holiday season for everybody, our family included,” she said. “My husband is Mr. Christmas; he loves Christmas. He likes it more than I do.”

Before she got this job, Van Scyoc wasn’t very familiar with Quad City Arts.

“I love all things art – I love the Figge and I love the Putnam, but didn’t realize until I started working here, how diverse and big our arts scene is. We do so many wonderful things in the Quad Cities.”

She really loves the Quad City Arts Metro Arts youth apprenticeship program over the summer.

A year-round job

The previous FOT administrator, Kaleigh Trammell, left for a new job at Quad Cities Community Foundation last December.

“Like many organizations, it was hard to find someone,” Quad City Arts executive director Kevin Maynard said Friday. “You’ve got to find the right fit for Festival —  it is a singular event you are living in year-round.

Quad City Arts executive director Kevin Maynard spoke on a video for the 44th Annual High School Art Invitational.

“The other challenge is that it is a big job, especially in the month of November,” he said, noting there is a management team and a large steering committee for FOT that meets often throughout the year, and upwards of 3,000 volunteers make the event happen.

Cheryl DeCap, a longtime FOT administrator, continues to volunteer as finance chair, and she’s been a mentor for Van Scyoc, Maynard said.

“Anybody who’s been to Festival knows there’s a lot that goes into it,” he said. “There’s a lot of moving parts.”

From first meeting Van Scyoc, Maynard was struck by how much she loves the holiday spectacular, a special QC tradition.

“Also, managing people is difficult — it’s a lot of people and a lot of moving parts, and Kim just exudes this energy,” he said. “She’s very positive; she just has a lot of energy. She can take and will take a lot of energy through the month of November.”

Having a new adventure

“I think I just bowled him over with my energy,” Van Scyoc noted of her interview with Maynard. “This is a job? Somebody gets paid to do this? This is awesome. I was a little naïve when I went into that.”

She first worked in sales for WLLR out of college, and after she was a stay-at-home mom (her son Jack is 25), a friend asked her to work in preschool.

“I just fell in love with it,” she said Friday. “It still is a great place. Then, I decided I needed to have one big career adventure and here I am. I’m having an adventure.”

The 29th-annual Festival of Trees Holiday Parade will be Saturday, Nov. 19 at 10 a.m.

Her husband Bob is a retired car dealer and drives a van for the Eldridge preschool.

Van Scyoc said learning the technology part of the job has been challenging.

“I love it and every time I do it, it’s magic, and they go, ‘No, Kim, it’s called a computer’,” she recalled. “It’s magic to me.”

“It’s amazing how this is a year-round event, and that has been a learning curve for me, too,” she said. “People don’t necessarily want to talk about Christmas in May, June and July. It’s not at the top of their mind as it is to me.”

Van Scyoc credited DeCap, Maynard and other QC Arts staff as “just being the nicest people,” she said. “I’m just lucky in life, because I’ve had such great bosses in my past…They’re just so patient with me and kind.”

So many people involved

It’s mind-boggling how many people it takes just to put on the holiday parade, Van Scyoc said. There are groups of volunteers that oversee each event like this for FOT, and the work is divided up among armies of people.

“It’s a lot. I hope I make everybody proud,” she said. “We love to bring in the younger crowd; bring in new artists and designers. But we have a core of repeat designers, and CenterStage performers we have come back year after year, which is so wonderful.”

The Festival, in its 37th year, is the largest fundraiser for Quad City Arts.

Van Scyoc likes to add new things, as well as enjoy the traditional things.

“It’s such a labor of love,” she said. “I can’t wrap my head around the fact there are so many selfless people out there who donate their time, talent and treasure for this beautiful event. It’s been going on for 37 years, and all these people don’t get a dime.”

“It’s just amazing to me how many people it takes, and how selfless they are,” Van Scyoc said. “It makes my heart so happy, the generosity of the Quad Cities.”

One of the new attractions this year will be a clear inflatable snow globe, which visitors can get inside and have photos taken.

An inflatable Elmo at a Festival of Trees parade in downtown Davenport.

“How do we make this experience even more for people? The ‘wow’ factor of, we just want people to go in and say, ‘ahhh’,” Van Scyoc said. “It’s such a beloved event and it just kicks off the season for everybody. It’s a win-win for everybody – it’s our biggest fundraiser, but it’s such a part of the culture in the Quad Cities.”

She said it’s her job to make all her volunteers’ jobs as easy as possible.

“It’s managing those personalities and expectations. That’s on the top of my list of what my job entails,” Van Scyoc said. “Managing people, managing expectations. I just want it to be profitable and I want it to be run smoothly. But I want people to have fun and to come back year after year.”

Many QC students perform at the Festival’s CenterStage.

Some designers and performers come from out of the area, but most are from the QC.

“There are high school choirs and junior high bands,” she said. “I love that there’s a little bit of everything.”

2nd time for new Mad Hatter event

One of the new Festival events is the second-annual “A Rather Curious Brunch” on Nov. 20 at 11 a.m. at the Hotel Blackhawk’s Gold Room.

“It’s essentially A Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, with cocktails,” Maynard said, noting last year it was at the QC Botanical Center in Rock Island, and will be at least twice as big this year.

“A Rather Curious Brunch” is a Festival of Trees special event on Nov. 20 at the Hotel Blackhawk, 200 E. 3rd St., Davenport.

“There are some magical fun drinks, and then also some actors there,” he said. The Spotlight Theatre’s Brent Tubbs will play the Mad Hatter, of “Alice in Wonderland” fame, and there will be other costumed characters interacting with guests.

“Last year, to be honest, it sold out pretty quick, but it was a small group,” Maynard said. “We’re figuring some things out. Last year, we learned a lot.”

The brunch is a 21+ event with teapot cocktails. Tickets are $50; $55 after Nov. 1st, with VIP tickets (seating with the Mad Hatter) at $75. All tickets include FOT general admission.

The Mad Hatter and his accomplices will keep you laughing (and guessing) at every turn during this immersive, adults-only “tea” party. Enjoy whimsical cocktails served in teapots and delicious “brunchitizers” as you travel down the rabbit hole solving riddles, playing games, and uncovering the magic and mayhem of wonderland, according to the FOT website.

Join the raffle for a chance to win some amazing prizes or try your luck in a game of croquet (but be careful not to lose your head). And don’t forget to wear your best (and wildest) hat for a chance to win The Mad Hatter’s Haddest Matter” Hat Contest.

Maynard’s wife Lily is chair of that event.

“We’re gonna have some day drinking,” Van Scyoc said. “If you don’t want to have a cocktail, you don’t have to.”

“Lily is a huge artist in the Quad Cities. She’s lovely,” she said.

Challenge of volunteers

Getting volunteers is getting harder each year, but FOT is “blessed that we have so many people who continue to come,” Van Scyoc said, noting this year, she is mostly deferring to the 120-plus steering committee and 20-member management team.

“These people know what they’re doing; they’ve been doing it for a long time,” she said. “I feel like when you go to the Festival, you feel that vibe and that energy, that happiness.”

What this is all about is spreading that joy, supporting Quad City Arts, and having fun at Christmas time.

Her son has loved the train and Gingerbread Village, which is one of her favorites.

Part of Gingerbread Village at Festival of Trees.

“I love the high school art; the toy tree, the book tree – it’s just all marvelous,” Van Scyoc said. “And the ceiling at Festival of Trees. There is a whole process of just the ceiling.”

There are teams for every aspect of the event, including a committee for design judges and a separate one for parade judges.

“We are always looking for volunteers,” she said. “Everything’s moving along and that’s one of my biggest focuses right now. We have volunteers and the people already committed, know where they’re going and what they’re doing, and have people in place to make that happen.”

It takes over 3,000 volunteers to put on Festival of Trees at RiverCenter, 136 E. 3rd St., Davenport.

The schedule of special FOT events is:

Nov. 18 | Premiere Party
Nov. 19 | Holiday Parade (FREE)
Nov. 20 | A Rather Curious Brunch
Nov. 20 | Teddy Bear Tea
Nov. 22 | SugarPlum Ball
Nov. 23 | Celebrity Lunch
Nov. 26 | Festival After Dark: Silent Disco

Volunteers who complete a full shift receive a free FOT ticket for every shift worked. To volunteer and for more information, visit the FOT website.