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An estimated 7,500 people kicked off the holiday season at the eighth annual Starry Nights fundraiser for the People’s City Mission Nov. 23-25 at Speedway Village.

The festival featured 20 designer-decorated Christmas trees sponsored by local businesses and churches. Previously held at Pinnacle Bank Arena, a scheduling conflict with a basketball game led to the change of venue this year, said Pastor Tom Barber, executive director of the People’s City Mission.

Barber was OK with the move. “Parking is better at Speedway Village, it’s more kid-friendly and we have room to expand,” he said.

“The weather hampered things a little bit, but those who attended had a great time,” Barber added. “Final financial earnings are still being counted, but it looks like we will raise a little over $100,000, similar to last year. The monies raised from this event will provide food and shelter for the homeless this winter. And it is much needed, because we are expecting record attendance at the mission.”

Barber attributed blizzard warnings Sunday, Nov. 25, for reducing attendance by about 2,500 guests.

“However, the Gala that night garnered a large crowd, and we were able to sell all the trees,” he added. The Starry Nights Gala is a formal-attired event for adults with dinner, a silent auction, live music and tree auction.

Attendees at the three-day Starry Nights festival bid on the designer-decorated trees, purchased wreaths and entered raffles. The event also included a children's workshop with creative crafts and activities, free holiday treats, live entertainment, and pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

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