The Library That Went Home For The Holidays
story: Kallie Markle
COTTONWOOD COMMUNITY LIBRARY’S CHRISTMAS HOME TOUR
There aren’t many ways to blend Christmas, libraries and the penchant for peeking into your neighbor’s house, but the people of Cottonwood manage to pull it off with panache. Every December, the Cottonwood Community Library presents its Christmas Home Tour. The self-guided tour, now its 10th year, features five Cottonwood residences and their unique holiday decorations.
Since its inception, the home tour has showcased 45 Cottonwood addresses, and never the same one twice. Doors have been thrown open at million-dollar residences and one-bedroom homes, and there has yet to be a shortage of style. Gayle Harrington, Director of Library Services, and Board of Directors Vice President Renee Ashe can list dozens of decorating themes that have enthralled tour goers over the years. From fairies to fire trucks, Mardi Gras to peacocks, and airplanes hangers to safaris, there is no limit to how a host’s imagination can create a Christmas spectacle. There have been homes with as many as seven different trees and most bedrooms are decorated as comprehensively as front windows. While women are the most enthusiastic devotees, men often become engrossed in showcasing their homes or enjoying the exhibit at a neighbor’s residence. “It’s seen as a badge of honor to have your home featured in the tour,” Harrington says. Ashe points out that hosts benefit by having their house decorated in advance of Christmas, so it’s already in top shape when relatives arrive.
All ticketholders are entered to win one of three $100 gift certificates to the Country Lane store, where proprietor Judith Klages artfully displays Christmas decor year round. Klages is an ardent cheerleader for the library and the home tour, and helps hosts select anything from a finishing touch to an entire tree flocked candy cane red. She is proud that the tour, while often featuring personal collections, is as chic as any big city counterpart. “It’s the way people present their idea of Christmas that makes it interesting,” she explains. “We invite everybody to come; they’ll be extremely pleased and surprised.”
The tour has gained popularity, entertaining at least 160 last year. For many, it has become a significant holiday tradition; some groups even rent limousines to carry them from house to house. Since there is little overhead on the library’s part, it’s an optimal fundraiser. The idea was borrowed from a similar event in Fresno, and, “with Cottonwood being a small community, we thought people would welcome the idea of sharing their homes,” Harrington explains. While the home tour is not the library’s only fundraiser, it’s largely considered the most exciting one. “It works because Christmas is a giving time,” says Harrington. And, for Ashe, “there are never enough thanks for the people who have supported us.”
Tour goers can purchase $15 tickets from sponsoring businesses and are invited to visit the homes from 10 am to 3 pm Dec. 12. This year’s sponsors - Sandy’s Specialties, Curves of Anderson, The Dragonfly, Etc. Mercantile, Kincaid & Company, Aggie’s Kountry Kuts and The Elegant Bean - will provide gift baskets to be raffled off at each home.
The Cottonwood Community Library is in its third year at the Main Street location designed and built especially for it by the community. Harrington likens it to that famed mascot of optimism, the Little Engine That Could, and feels it’s a special honor to be in charge of something so wonderful.
“People need to know how important this is,” stresses Klages, “even if they just buy a ticket but can’t attend the tour.”
It seems that for the people of Cottonwood, if there’s one thing more beloved than Christmas, it’s the library.