With boughs adorned with white mugs, coasters and globes filled with coffee beans, the 8-foot-tall Christmas tree was a java lover’s dream.

Greenwood-based Brickhouse Coffee Co. wanted something simple and tasteful for their entry into this year’s Festival of Trees at the Indiana History Center. Their cream and dark brown logos offset the deep green of the tree.

Burlap ribbon and white lights added subtle flair to the design. Authentic burlap bags, which at one time were used to haul coffee beans, are spread out around the tree’s base.

The title of their creation: “A Cup of Christmas Cheer.”

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“There’s something about what coffee does in bringing people together. Outside the holiday season or inside the holiday season, sharing a cup of coffee with someone else brings out that Christmas spirit,” said Jared Stayton, co-owner of Brickhouse Coffee.

Brickhouse Coffee is one of 80 businesses, schools and organizations, including many with Johnson County ties, which have decked out specially created trees for the Festival of Trees. The holiday tradition, created by the Indiana Historical Society, allows sponsors to show off their creativity and imagination while amplifying Christmas spirit.

From virtual reality to a topiary elephant’s head to a massive 30-feet-tall centerpiece, the festival lets people explore the one-of-a-kind talents of local groups, one tree at a time.

“It’s a wonderful experience for small children, but I think it’s good even for adults who are young at heart,” said Tom Borman, event director for the Indiana Historical Society. “People can walk in, and it brings back Christmas past.”

The Indiana Historical Society created the Festival of Trees in 2014 to draw visitors to its Indianapolis history center during the holiday season, as well as raise funds for its historical mission. The first year, organizers enlisted 25 companies to sponsor and decorate a tree.

Since that time, the tradition has taken off. Participation has grown every year, from 50 in 2015 to 72 in 2016 to 80 now. That has forced historical society officials to reorganize the event’s set-up, Borman said. Trees are now set up on four floors of the history center, as well as in the entryway when guests walk in. They’ll pass by “The Most Good” tree, put together by presenting sponsor the Salvation Army, as well as the living room scene from “A Christmas Story.”

“The trees represent all of our sponsors, as well as departments here at the Indiana Historical Society like conservation, marketing and exhibits,” Borman said.

Oaken Barrel Brewing Co. in Greenwood has decorated a tree every year that the festival has been in existence. They were asked to serve beer at the opening party of the event, and since it turned into a great opportunity for exposure, they’ve done it ever since, said Kwang Casey, owner of Oaken Barrel.

The Epiphany Tree brings together purples, golds and silvers, with Oaken Barrel beer piled like gifts underneath.

The focus of the tree is Oaken Barrel bottles — favorites such as Gnaw Bone Pale Ale and Indiana Amber, new releases such as Apple Buzz, and of course, their Epiphany Belgian Tripel.

“It’s a beer tree,” Casey said.

Brickhouse also has been involved with the event since it was founded, Stayton said. Their involvement grew from a previous relationship they had with some of the marketing department staff at the Indiana Historical Society.

“With us, there’s kind of a red thread that runs through everything we do, and it’s relationships,” Stayton said. “Since year one, we’ve been invited back to take part.”

The first year, they set up a mobile espresso bar and served samples of coffee drinks and hot chocolate, and in return they were allowed to decorate a tree.

“It’s a way for us, as a coffee roaster in Indianapolis, to be a community partner as much as we can,” Stayton said. “When there’s an opportunity to come alongside to help them, plus helping us by growing our brand, we want to do it.”

Johnson County and other southside groups are represented throughout the exhibition. Franklin College’s tree, flaked with fake snow and the navy-and-gold school colors, brings together bear-themed decorations with framed photographs of campus life.

The creation is appropriately named “All I Want For Christmas Is To Be A Grizzly.”

“Oh, What Fun It Is To Ride” was created by Indianapolis Southside Harley-Davidson, and features a leather-clad Santa Claus riding a full-size Harley. The tree next to Santa includes snapshots of the company’s 70-year history.

Southside studio the Dance Refinery pays homage to the “The Nutcracker Suite” with its ballet-themed tree, while the Stacked Pickle restaurant, with a location in Greenwood, expands off the pickle ornament tradition in “A Pickle Christmas.”

A majority of the participants used a traditional Christmas tree as their starting point. But a number of the designs are “trees” only if you use your imagination.

Plow Digital, a software and app design company from Indianapolis, created a modernist, futuristic tree. But the real surprise is in the virtual reality headsets waiting by the display, which let people see a festive winter scene come to life around them.

“It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Construction” is simply a v-shaped stepladder, with ornaments and brightly colored baubles hanging from the center. The tree was created by Two Chicks and a Hammer, the home rehab company of Karen E. Laine and Mina Starsiak, who started the TV show “Good Bones” on HGTV.

“Just because we say ‘decorate a tree’ doesn’t mean it has to be a conventional tree,” Borman said.

To augment the tree displays, the Indiana History Center will host a series of daily and weekly programs, as well as special one-time-only events through the holiday season. Holiday sing-alongs and a contest to spot the Elf on the Shelf will be a regular feature. Weekends will bring a vintage Santa walking through and handing out special treats to children.

The Holiday Author Fair will bring more than 60 writers to show off their Indiana-centric books today. People will be able to enter the history center and the author fair for free.

Celebrate Indiana’s beer culture with Good Beers and Ugly Sweaters on Dec. 14. On Dec. 16, step into the world of “A Christmas Story” with themed trivia, photo opportunities and Chinese take-out crafts.

Hours have been expanded, and every Tuesday the history center will be open until 8 p.m. The center will be open seven days a week through Jan. 6.

“That’s something we haven’t done in the past, been continuously open for that amount of time. And we added an extra week,” Borman said.

At a glance

Festival of Trees

What: An exhibition organized by the Indiana Historical Society of 80 trees decorated uniquely by businesses, schools and organizations throughout central Indiana.

Where: Indiana History Center, 450 W. Ohio St., Indianapolis

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Admission: $9 for adults, $8 for seniors 60 or older, $5 for youth ages 5 to 17 and free for children under 5.

Daily programs

  • Elf on the Shelf: Where is the History Center’s Elf on the Shelf each day? Tell the Welcome Center where you found him and get a small prize.
  • Holiday sing-alongs
  • Where is the Weihnachtzgurke?: Find 10 pickle ornaments hidden in different trees all over the building.

Weekly programs

  • Twilight Tuesdays: Enjoy the beauty of the trees at night and enjoy local talent presenting the music of the season each Tuesday through Dec. 19.
  • Vintage Santa: Every weekend from 1 to 4 p.m., Santa will hand out special treats to children.

Special programs

  • Holiday Author Fair: noon to 4 p.m. today; free admission
  • Keepsake Corner: noon to 4 p.m. today and Dec. 9, fashion traditional holiday crafts and games to take home.
  • Good Beers and Ugly Sweaters: 5:30 to 8 p.m. Dec. 14; wear your ugliest Christmas sweater and taste complimentary seasonal beers produced by local craft brewers. Tickets are $15 in advance, $12 for members and $20 at the door.
  • “A Christmas Story” Day: noon to 4 p.m. Dec. 16; celebrate the iconic film with themed trivia, photos and Chinese take-out crafts.

Information: indianahistory.org

Author photo
Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.