Embassy Theatre’s annual Festival of Trees will take place Nov 24-Dec. 1 and is the largest fundraiser of the year to support ongoing operational and restoration efforts in the historic building.
The lobbies of the Embassy Theatre and Indiana Hotel will be transformed into a wonderland of decorated trees with the theme “The Magic of the Season.” Patrons can tour the venue, visit Santa and enjoy live entertainment.
“This is a huge event, with a record number of trees, and it’s a very joy-filled event,” says Carly Myers, chief marketing officer. “It’s pretty magical and is very nostalgic for some.” Generations of families have attended the event since its beginning in 1985.
Trees range in size from 4 to 12 feet tall and are sponsored and decorated by local businesses and organizations.
This year, visitors may come and go as they please, seeing what they want to see, in the time they want to see it and in whatever order, she Myers. Last year, the number of people entering the building was limited by use of timed tickets, and foot traffic moved in one direction because of the pandemic. The only COVID-19 protocol in place this year is the recommendation of masks.
The event will begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 24, as part of the downtown Night of Lights and will continue on Thanksgiving from noon to 8 p.m.; from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday through Sunday, Nov. 26-28; from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Monday, Nov. 29; from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Tuesday (Senior Day) and from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Wednesday Dec. 1.
On Thursday, the film, Dr. Suess’ “The Grinch” will be shown at 1, 3 and 5 p.m.
Friday’s stage entertainment features the Grande Page Pipe Organ concert at 11 a.m.; Ellie Paige Dance Academy at noon; Fred Astaire Dance Studios at 2 p.m.; 5, 6, 7, 8 School of Dance at 3 p.m.; K. Monique’s Studio of Dance at 4 p.m.; Amaneceres De Mexico Dance at 5 p.m.; Ratio Dance at 6 p.m. and the Art Leadership Academy at 7 p.m.
Stage entertainment on Saturday includes a pipe organ concert at 11 a.m.; Dance NY Studio of Dance at noon; Kinetic Revelation Academy of Dance and the Arts at 1 p.m.; En Croix Ballet at 2 p.m.; Julie’s School of Dance at 3 p.m.; Studio 149 at 4 p.m.; SheeKriStyle Academy of Dance at 6 p.m.; and Beacons of Light Dance at 7 and 8 p.m.
Sunday’s lineup includes a pipe organ concert at 11 a.m.; Starz Dance Academy at noon and 1 p.m.; Icon Dance Center at 2 p.m.; Pulse Dance Academy at 3 p.m.; Northeast School of Dance at 4 p.m.; Fort Wayne Dance Collective at 5 p.m.; and Dyson Dance Studio at 7 p.m.
On Monday, the pipe organ concert will be at 9 a.m.; North Side High School Show Choir performs at 11 a.m.; and the Community Sing-Along with the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir will be at 6:30 p.m.
On Senior Day, Tuesday, Nov. 30, Rusty Ammerman’s Dimensions of Illusions will be on stage at noon.
The event will conclude on Wednesday, Dec. 1, with the Concordia High School Choir at 9 a.m. and the Canterbury Middle School Orchestra performing at 11 a.m.
“Breakfast with Santa” events will take place at the theater on Nov. 26 and 27 at 8:30 a.m. Call the box office ahead to reserve spots for $30; seating is limited. This event includes a private tour of the Festival of Trees at 8:30 a.m. and then Breakfast with Santa programming at around 9 a.m. Mad Anthony will provide a scrumptious breakfast buffet. The whole family will enjoy an engaging performance of Elf Jr. from the Fort Wayne Youtheatre. Alomar & Dynamic Sound Entertainment will emcee the event. Masks are recommended.
A variety of holiday shows are on the schedule including “The Elf on the Shelf: The Musical,” Project Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” Motown Christmas, Straight No Chaser and The Fort Wayne Philharmonic Holiday Pops concerts.
The Broadway at The Embassy series will continue into 2022 with “Cats” on Jan. 24, and “Hairspray,” “Waitress,” and “Jersey Boys” next spring. “Waitress” and “Cats” will be staged two nights.
“The 2,471-seat theater is large enough to attract national acts, while being small enough to give audiences an intimate experience with the stage productions, and there’s not a bad seat in the house,” Myers says.
A former seven-story hotel wraps around the north and west sides of the theater and has been repurposed to include business offices, a two-story ballroom and other rental spaces. A rooftop patio is available to rent for weddings, retreats, corporate parties, community events and more.
The history of Embassy Theatre begins with the opening of Emboyd Theatre in May 1928, at a time when vaudeville was at its height of popularity. For 25 years, the theater was a destination for many of the biggest and brightest stars of stage and screen, including Perry Como, Lawrence Welk, Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett, Doris Day, Duke Ellington, Red Skelton and Victor Borge.
When sold to Alliance Amusement Corporation, the theater changed its name to Embassy Theatre and continued to operate as a movie palace. The ornate pipe organ was seldom used, but a group of organ enthusiasts came together to become the unofficial guardians of its place in the theater.
Faced with the building being torn down, a handful of community leaders and volunteers formed the Embassy Theatre Foundation in 1972. Their goal was to protect and preserve the building and organ.
With just two days to spare, $250,000 was raised to rescue the building from demolition. The work began and many fundraisers were held. The first Festival of Trees raised $46,000.
Thanks to generous supporters, the following building renovations have been completed at Embassy Theatre: Installation of the marquee and vertical blade sign; renovation of the HVAC and cooling system; restoration of the Hoosier room; the renovation of the ladies lower lounge; replacement of the grand entryway doors; and repair of the water damaged sub-basement and foundation. The Indiana Hotel renovation included the creation of a two-level ballroom and the Parkview Health rooftop patio. ❚