Meadville Tribune

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November 15, 2012

'Deck the Halls' theme of this year's Trees of Christmas

MEADVILLE — Necktie angels, pearl poinsettias and candy-covered presents are just a few of the hundreds of hand-made ornaments hanging gingerly on the soft-nettle boughs of this year’s Trees of Christmas tour, aptly themed “Deck the Halls.”

Members of the Meadville Garden Club let heaven and nature sing loud and clear throughout the 18th century walls of the Baldwin-Reynolds House Museum, with a tree in every room and elegant decorations made from recycled materials that surprised even the event’s coordinators.

After more than 20 years of involvement in the organization, Garden Club President Rhonda Sippy is still amazed that all the ideas and decorations are as fresh as the trees.

“I’m stunned by how much of the material is recycled,”  said Sippy. “So much is re-used.”

With the vast percentage of items handmade and the majority of costs out of pocket for club members, these ladies make sure everything is as cost-effective as it is eye-catching.

“Every year I say ‘this is the best ever,’ and now I say they’ve done it again,” said Sandee Mook, Garden Club representative and past president. “The things our members come up with always amaze me.”

The attention to detail is just as striking as the big picture, down to the glittering white-tipped pine cones arranged in the solarium atop a twig and leaf-laden birdbath, complete with carved, crimson cardinals.

“We either used natural things from nature or recycled items,” said Mook. “I think it worked out wonderfully.”

The 7,000 or so people who come to see the trees at this biannual event also get their share of amazement with original decor ideas for every room of the two-story house, Mook added.

It’s hard to argue after seeing countless paper roses made from donated sheet music lining the back parlor tree and packages piled in the dining room and law library, wrapped in fabrics ranging from the scraps of old shirts to the pages of antique law books, all dressed to look as intricate and ornate as the museum itself.

Additionally, it’s hard to believe that while planning for this event begins about a year and a half ahead of time, approximately 50 Garden Club members and volunteers descend on the house and deck every hall about five days before opening the doors.

“The trees were delivered last Friday,” said Joanne Ende, Trees of Christmas co-chair, who explained that the trees are picked out and tagged at Carroll’s Nursery every year around September or October. “Saturday morning, all the women descended on the house.”

“We could never have it every year,” echoed fellow Co-chair Mary Gurney. “It’s just a lot of work.”

Following a wrap-up meeting in January, Garden Club members take about two months off before selecting chairpersons and a theme, already brainstorming for the following year.

By the end of the summer, more than a year before the next show, designated decorators have their rooms picked out.

“We have to start early because so much is hand-crafted and there’s so much area to cover,” said Ende, applauding the group effort and volunteerism of club members. “We have fun doing it and we do it to benefit the house.”

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