Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress
Tonya Sanford is a long-time fan of the annual Jacksonville Tour of Homes, visiting different residences not only to see how people dress up their homes for the holidays, but to get practical ideas, too.
On Dec. 9, however, she and her husband, Shell, will, be the ones welcoming visitors to their home at 10301 FM 768, south of Jacksonville, sharing hospitality and holiday cheer with all who stop by on the 2012 tour.
“This my favorite time of the year,” she said, describing how her husband surprised her by volunteering to list their home on the tour.
“He loves when people come out to visit, and we love to have people come over. He’s all about showing the house, but really, he’s more about showing his old stuff,” she laughed
That “stuff” includes old Jacksonville memorabilia he keeps in the shop adjacent to the house, and the 1927 Model T parked at the entrance of the property, presently decorated for the Dec. 9 event, slated from 1-5 p.m.
“This will be our third Christmas in this home, so with me being an annual tour of homes person myself, my hope is to give others ideas, not only with Christmas decorating, but also building and construction ideas, and things of that sort, because that’s what I always looked at – I looked at the home just as much as I did the decoration,” she said. “My hope is that everybody has a warm feeling about our home and can maybe get some ideas for their own home.”
For Jag Bookstore director Will Cumbee, serving as this year's hospitality business means raising public awareness of Jacksonville College, which the bookstore serves.
In fact, he specifically volunteered to serve this year “to give more exposure of the campus to the community,” he said. “We want people to see that the bookstore is open to everyone, not just students and staff – we’re a hidden treasure that only a few people from the community come to shop, but most don’t know we’re here. (Being the hospitality host) helps to raise our identity.”
The bookstore, located in the Weatherby Memorial Building, which once housed the school library, carries traditional college texts and school spirit items and clothing, but it also has floor space dedicated to other gift items from Ganz and seasonal items, Cumbee said.
Tour of Homes participants also can purchase tickets for the tour and find maps to houses listed as part of it. The bookstore also will be offering door prizes and refreshments during tour hours.
This marks the fourth time Cumbee has taken part in a Tour of Homes event: He and his wife opened their homes two different times while they lived in Rusk, then several years ago after constructing a home in Jacksonville, where they retired.
“It's a nice experience to get to share your home with people, and each home has its own unique personality. But, as a homeowner, you do it because you're (invited),” he said. “A lot of people just want to see the homes, and to see the decorations and see different ways they can do things in their homes.”
Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce president Peggy Renfro said the event has been sponsored by the Chamber for about the past 25 years, and is a popular one that draws from 150 to 250 people each year.
“It's just a lot of fun,” she said. “It's so neat because you get to see how they decorate not only during holidays, but their homes … the colors they use, things like that. And if you're looking to remodel or build, it would be a good opportunity as well, not only for the inside of the home but the exterior of the home, like landscaping.”
Public response “has always been very positive, and it’s really nice to be able to have it on a Sunday afternoon,” she added. “People will go to church, go get something to eat then make an afternoon of it.”
“We try to keep it no more than five (stops on the tour) because of time issues, and sometimes you cant tour all of the places depending on their locations. (The tour is set up to be) a nice, relaxing afternoon without having to rush,” Renfro said.
While there is the common Christmas theme for the tour, each property owner does something special – sometimes several things special in his or her home.
The Newburn-Rawlinson Home at 406 Kickapoo St., built in 1912 across from Jacksonville College, will be decorated to reflect the early 1900's at Christmas time. Little things, like stringing fresh popcorn and cranberry garlands to grace the tree, or creating special children’s trees with items of that era for display in bedrooms, are what give it an old-fashioned holiday feel.
The college alumni association, which has an office in the house, wanted to “showcase the beauty of the historic home, and Jacksonville College, too,” said Ruth Bearden, who was on hand recently to help decorate the home.
“We want to give people a glimpse into the past,” added Ester Turner, who also was setting up decorations at the Newburn-Rawlinson home. “We’re having a group sing carols outside the house, and they’re supposed to be dressed in Victorian-type clothes, and we’ll be dressed that way, too.”
Meanwhile, back at the Sanford home, the decor varies from room to room, reflecting the Mrs. Sanford’s wide variety of styles that were pulled together by local business owner Lindsey Terry of Tigerlillies Florist to create a cheerful holiday theme.
However, it's the bedrooms of Houston and Jerrod, the children of the family, that will catch one's eye because of their sheer creativity and whimsy.
Houston, a Texas Rangers fan, has a Rangers-themed tree to go with his red and blue Rangers bedding and other baseball decor, while his brother, who prefers cowboys, has a Western holiday theme incorporated into his bedroom.
“The boys got to pick their own thing and the rest of the house just kind of came together with my kind of tastes,” their mother said. “Their rooms were done first – they were the easiest to put together and the funnest to do.”
And this, Renfro said, is what makes the annual Tour of Homes so special: Getting to see those “certain treasures” of each of the families.
“It might be a family heirloom, with a little story behind it that they want to share, giving those attending some unique family stories,” she said.
The Tour of Homes will be hosted from 1-5 p.m. Dec. 9 at five different sites. Advance tickets are $5 at the Chamber of Commerce, 526 E. Commerce, and Jacksonville College Jag Bookstore, 105 B.J. Albritton Dr.
Ticket cost rises to $7 on the day of the tour, and may be purchased at any of the homes on the tour. However, only the bookstore will provide maps of homes on the tour. For more information, contact the Jacksonville Chamber at 903-586-2217.
In addition to the Sanford home and the Newburn-Rawlinson Home, other homes on this year's tour include:
Malinda Felts-Shoemaker Hill Ranch, 800 CR 1815. Owner Malinda Felts will decorate her home to reflect pure country elegance. Melody Lade, owner of Tablescapes by Melody, will also provide her own special and unique style with some of the decorations throughout the home, said event coordinator Kayla Stephenson.
Weldon & Charlotte Taylor, 1627 Quevado St. “Decorations reflecting the true meaning of Christmas will be on display in the Taylor home, with Nativity scenes and old world Santas in every room throughout the home,” Stephenson said. “One room will have a Nativity scene scene with Santa kneeling by Jesus in the manager.”