Saturday's Holiday Tour of Homes, presented by the Tillsonburg Kinette Club and Tillsonburg Station Arts Centre, featured six Tillsonburg homes, including three Broadway residences.
Also on the tour was Station Arts Centre on Bridge Street with its seasonally-decorated Tea Room, and the town's three-story crown jewel, Annandale National Historic Site, on Tillson Avenue.
Participants were provided with a map on their tickets, and they could visit the eight locations in any order. At each location tickets were initialed to be eligible for draw prizes.
No. 1 on the list was the Broadway home of Jennifer Schum and David Rudolph, owners of a stately century house originally built in 1908 by the Brown family. Visitors were greeted by two large Nutcracker soldiers 'posted' out front, and holiday music both inside and outside. Inside, the home's main hall, dining room, living room and family room were seasonally decorated using a variety of vintage-theme Christmas decorations and children-friendly ornaments.
"The music outside's just for today – I wanted to liven it up," said Schum, standing under a string of musically chiming bells at the dining room entrance. "Everything in here right now is what we typically do for Christmas. If you come here in January, it'll still be the same."
Their 'show-stopper' was a set of three dancing pandas from an old mall display which Schum had found on Kijiji. The last owner, who had bought them at an auction, had not used them in a dozen or more years. The wiring had been cut, but Rudolph was able to re-wire them and fire them up for the first time about a week before the home tour.
"The panda bears and the Ferris wheel – the Ferris wheel is off right now – that's upstairs normally," said Schum. "We do kind of a kid's theme Candyland upstairs. We've got young children, so we try to make all of our holidays really quite special for the kids. Holidays have always been quite a big production for us – and we love Christmas."
They started collecting the larger pieces since moving into the Broadway home seven years ago.
"The three larger Nutcracker soldiers and the pandas wouldn't fit in our last house."
It took about three weekends to decorate, she said.
"Because we have young children in the house, our decorations are a bit more whimsical than some.
"Absolutely, it's been a lot of fun. It's a great opportunity to speak with people about the history of the home. We enjoyed hearing stories from people who knew the Brown family and knew about the house. Some of the Browns are still here in town."
Also on the 2014 tour were homes owned by Helen and Mike Evens on Allen Street, Charles and Lynda Cox on Broadway, Heather and Allen Benton on Lisgar Avenue, Elaine Chamberlain on Broadway, and a Hayhoe Homes house on Colin Avenue.
Opening your home for the holiday tour can be a bit nerve-racking, said Heather Benton, but also rewarding.
"You're opening yourself up to judgement and that was a big thing for me," she said, noting their 1935 Tudor, originally built by the Eichenberg family, also has a lot of history.
"I was scared," she admitted, "but I've had real nice, positive, wonderful feedback. It was a lot of fun, I really did enjoy it. And it was nice to share what you do – otherwise it's only your family that sees it. You put so much work into your home that sharing it with people who are strangers, it's refreshing to see it from other people's eyes."
As a bonus, she said, now that the house is decorated she can focus on the holiday season.
"What a relief," she smiled.
Benton has had her decorations for many years with the exception of a set of brown tree ornaments bought to highlight the home's decor.
"I didn't buy anything for this show – everything I had, and I always put it out. And that's important. I think people think they have to go out and buy a lot of stuff and it's going to cost a lot of money.
"I filled holes with fresh greens. I filled my urns with stuff I had in my backyard, which I do every year anyways."
The end result was quite satisfying, she said.
"It was not nearly as scary as I thought it would be. It's nerve-racking going into it, but once you're there, it's so nice to open your doors. Everyone was so welcoming. That's what I loved about it. We're proud of the homes that we create, so being able to show your home to other people, it really made me feel even prouder of what we've accomplished in three short years."
In fact, she enjoyed it so much she's considering joining the Tillsonburg Lioness Garden Tour in 2016.
More than 100 tickets were sold for the 2014 Tillsonburg Kinette and Station Arts Centre Holiday Tour of Homes, which was sponsored in part by XQZT Floral Design, Tillsonburg Garden Gate, Twigs Floral Design, Country Home Candle, Tranquility Health and Beauty Centre, Southern Ontario Printing, and Easy 101/Country 107.3.