WILLIAMS BAY - Lake Geneva is always bustling with activity in the summer, but did you know much fun is still to be found during winter?
Two fantastic options to get in the holiday spirit include seeing decorated trees that help charities and also taking a special holiday cruise on the lake.
Both activities - the Santa Cause "Twelve Charities of Christmas" tree festival and Santa Cruise - take place at Gage Marine's Winter Harbor, 1 Liechty Drive, Williams Bay.
"We're trying to raise $100,000 for local charities this year," said Nancy Waspi, Director of the Santa Cause tree festival.
Santa Cause is marking its second year of the tree festival. The event encourages visitors to take a look at fun and unique trees decorated by local organizations and charities.
Beneath each fir is a plethora of fun prizes that people can enter for a chance to win. The raffle tickets cost $1 each and are sold in books of 10. The event raised over $47,000 last year.
"When you're here and donating you're helping 12 charities at once, not just one," Waspi said, noting that she's hoping to see over 12,000 visitors stop by throughout the duration of the event.
ZoŽ Gatz, a senior at Elkhorn Area High School, is pleased to be helping at the event as Snow Queen. Gatz is a dancer at Toe to Toe Ballet School in Elkhorn. She's excited for the new performance.
"I love being able to greet the children and seeing their reactions," she said. "Santa Cause is a wonderful way to give back and help families in need so that everyone can enjoy the season."
While looking at the Santa Cause trees, visitors also can purchase tickets or wait for the Santa Cruise, a 40-minute boat ride on Lake Geneva via a festively-lighted vessel.
The Santa Cruise includes commentary as the boat travels past huge light displays on the shore. Kids activities like coloring pages are available on board, and so is hot cocoa, a cash bar with beverages and some snacks. Kids can expect a major surprise once the boat reaches the North Pole.
Tickets to the Santa Cruise are $25 for adults, $23 for seniors and $15 for children. There is no charge for infants. Prior reservations are encouraged by visiting www.santacruise.com.
A portion of each Santa Cruise ticket sale goes to the Santa Cause tree festival. Special "ride and dine" packages with Pier 290 restaurant are available by checking out the website.
The Twelve Charities of Christmas Tree Festival is open from 4-9 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon-9 p.m. on weekends. The display is closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It officially closes on Dec. 29 and the big drawing for prizes is at 6 p.m. Jan. 13, 2018. It is free to view the trees.
Tree themes and grand prizes are as follows:
• 1 - Water Safety Patrol "The Beach" - $500 cash and one-week stay at 5-bedroom house in Orange Beach, Alabama.
• 2 - Tree House "Holiday Cars" - $2,000 cash donated by Kunes Country Ford
• 3 - Otis Green Foundation "Ultimate Chicago Sports Fan" - Weekend for four in Boston for Blackhawks/Bruins game, four White Sox tickets, four Bears tickets, four Cubs tickets, four Bulls tickets.
• 4 - Conference Point/Lake Geneva Youth Camp "Adventure is Out There" - $500 cash and two Stiga Snow Kick Bikes, glitter tube, birthday party at the camp and more.
• 5 - Inspiration Ministries "His Ultimate Gift" - $500 cash and $2,500 in new trees donated by Gerdes Wholesale Nursery.
• 6 - Geneva National Foundation for Special Needs "Oh Christmas Tee - $500 cash and a trip for two to Arnold Palmer's Bayhill Club and Lodge.
• 7 - Open Arms Free Clinic & Dan Green's Touch a Life, Heal a Heart "Oh the places you will go!" - $500 cash and $1,000 worth of airline vouchers, travel items and more.
• 8 - Elkhorn Area Youth Center and The Boys & Girls Club of WC "Walworth County Kids" - $500 cash and limited edition Jagermeister electric guitar.
• 9 - Agape House "Tropical Paradise Get-A-Way" - $500 cash and one week trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico at a 5 star resort.
• 10 - Norman B. Barr Camp "Hawaii" - $500 cash and lodging at Kuleana on Maui.
• 11 - Holiday Home Camp/Lake Geneva Fresh Air Association "Outdoor Adventure" - $500 cash and 13 foot Hobie Wave sailboat.
• 12 - Walworth County Food Pantry & Resource Center "Seasons GrEATings" - Ski-Doo snowmobile.
Each of the trees has many other prizes as well. See www.santacauses.org to learn more.
The Santa Cruise is operating each day of the week until New Years, except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Cruises depart at 4:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Friday and Saturday cruises depart at 4:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The "Naughty or Nice" adult cruise is at 8:30 p.m. Sunday cruises are at 4:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.