DAVENPORT, Iowa – This year would have been Ashley Richardson’s third year displaying a tree at the Quad City Festival of Trees, an annual fundraiser for Quad City Arts that features designer Christmas trees, ornaments, stockings, and gingerbread houses. The Festival begins Saturday and runs through December 1.
The Bettendorf native’s tree, designed with a Super Nintendo Mario Kart theme, won first prize in the children’s category last year. Her first tree won a special recognition ribbon sporting an original Nintendo theme. Both trees sold during the Festival’s auction.
For 2019, Richardson told Caffeinated Thoughts that she wanted to honor veterans and first responders with her tree, as well as show support for President Donald Trump. Her tree featured a cut out of President Trump, American flags, flags supportive of first responders, and “Trump 2020” flags.
She set the tree up on Sunday and received a phone call from organizers on Monday saying she had to remove the Trump and 2nd Amendment elements on the tree since they conveyed a political message.
“We do not allow candidates or politician designs into the design elements at Festival. We live in the great state of Iowa and we’re able to see candidates all the time. We know that we also have people that are very passionate about their candidates, but we also think that the Festival should be free of that and also gives everybody an opportunity to take a break from the politicians,” Quad City Arts Executive Director, Kevin Maynard, told KWQC TV, the Quad City NBC affiliate. Caffeinated Thoughts reached out to Maynard, but as of publication has not received a response.
“When I put the tree up on Sunday, I got a call on Monday to say I couldn’t display it as is because it violated their policy. I asked to see that policy. They couldn’t pull it up because it didn’t exist. The manual said trees couldn’t have logos or advertise businesses. She said it violated their policy because it was political,” Richardson told Caffeinated Thoughts. “It wasn’t until I put the tree up that they changed the policy on their site.”
She said had the policy existed, she would not have decorated her tree that way. She opted to remove the tree.
The website now reads, “Quad City Arts reserves the right to reject any designs that do not align with our mission. This may include, but is not limited to: any violent or harmful messages or imagery, commercial promotional items, and political statements of any kind.”
Caffeinated Thoughts downloaded the manual for designers and found it was edited and uploaded to the Festival website as a Microsoft Word document in mark-up mode. The manual now reads, “Please note: Festival of Trees does not allow any trees, doors, etc., featuring political parties/candidates.”
That edit was made on Tuesday at 9:11 am by Kaleigh Trammell, the administrator for the Quad City Festival of Trees, according to a comment that popped up when this writer scrolled over the edit using MacBook’s Pages app.
Richardson also told Caffeinated Thoughts that there seems to be a double standard applied to political messages. She said there was an anti-Trump gingerbread house that was allowed to be displayed. Also, last year featured an LGBT Pride-themed Christmas tree.
Davenport Guns agreed to host her Christmas tree as is where she is holding a silent auction to benefit Camp Valor Outdoors, an organization that seeks to recognize and honor ill, injured, and wounded members of the military and their families. A Howa 6.5 Creedmore rifle was also donated for a raffle to support the organization as well.
“My main goal was to raise a lot of money for a good cause, and Davenport Guns is allowing me to do that. Now I get to support veterans. At least something good happened out of this,” Richardson said.