GUYS MILLS —
The whole house has the warm feeling of the holiday season. The comforting aroma of hot apple cider fills the air, and the soft light of 23 decorated trees fills the house with a warm glow. It feels like Christmas.
For the fifth year in a row, Chuck and Ronnie Laine Kebert of Guys Mills have opened their home to the public as sort of Christmas tree museum. It all started a few years ago when the Keberts visited a bed and breakfast in Cochranton that had its own tree display. After seeing similar exhibits in other places, the Keberts were inspired to start their own.
“It started with three or four trees,” Chuck explained. “From there it just bloomed.”
And bloom it certainly did. Christmas trees of all sizes light up each room of the 100-year-old country house, each tree with a different theme. In the kitchen is a tree decorated with milk, sugar, bread and butter. In the living room, with walls painted to look like wooden planks, a hunting-themed tree and an old west tree complement rodeo portraits, with cowboy hats and a deer’s head mounted on the wall.
There is even a tree in each of the house’s two bathrooms (one of which is accompanied by a life-size Santa Claus in a bathrobe, ready to take a shower).
Chuck has added a navy-themed tree to a cove above the
stairs that is home to a year-round tribute to the U.S. Navy, in which he served for 25 years. In the next room is a military tribute tree, adorned with toy soldiers and blank dog tags. Kebert invites the public to make donations to this tree that he and his wife will donate to support our troops currently serving. Family members or friends of soldiers or veterans may also add items to the tree, which will be returned after the season, or may write the name of their service person on one of the tree’s hanging dog tags.
Another tree of particular interest is the unique upside down one, a standard for the Kebert tree collection. It’s an idea that has gained nationwide popularity. According to Ronnie Laine, she first saw an upside down tree at a home show years ago. The Keberts then saw a huge one in a Kaufman’s department store and were inspired to make their own. In previous years, they have hung the tree from a hook in their ceiling, but this year, they are excited to announce they have figured out how to create a tree stand to display an upside-down tree.
It sounds like a lot of work, but for Chuck, this is his favorite part of the holiday season. “We really enjoy that Christmas spirit,” he said. “A lot of people say they weren’t feeling the Christmas spirit until they came here.” Kebert noted that a lot of people, especially husbands, come “kicking and screaming” at first, but then want to come back again. And each visit may be a different experience as the Keberts have been known to decorate and redecorate throughout the season. This weekend, they plan to pick up a live tree to add to the 23 artificial ones on display.
“We like to keep you on your toes,” said Chuck, explaining that a tree you see this week could have a completely different theme if you come back next week.
There is no fee to visit the display. However, when they receive monetary donations, they pass them on to various charities.
“We don’t do this to get rich,” Chuck explained. “We are rich just by people coming to see this.” Aside from the money they sometimes receive, the Keberts have also received donations of trees. When they have more trees than they need, the extras are donated to people and places that can’t afford their own.
Everybody is invited to visit the exhibit, which will be open until a few days after Christmas. Visitors are asked to call the Keberts at 789-4103 to make reservations for a tour. Times are flexible, but evenings are generally best, especially since the lighted trees are best viewed at night. Large groups are welcome as well, according to the Keberts, who have had everyone from school-aged children to busloads of senior citizens come to visit their home.
The Keberts, who receive anywhere from 150 to 500 guests per season, depending on the year, have already had several calls for reservations this year, including a church group that will travel all the way from Cleveland to see the display.
For many people, including several of their neighbors, a trip to the Kebert Christmas tree exhibit is an annual tradition.
“This is our gift to everyone for Christmas,” Chuck said. “We enjoy it, we really do.”
Amanda Knowles is a senior at Allegheny College.
GUYS MILLS —