DUNEDIN — Put on your flat-heeled sneakers, crank up the Jingle Bell Rock and get ready for the Dunedin Youth Guild's 43rd annual Holiday Tour of Homes.
Saturday's tour is a festive journey through seven splendid homes showcasing a diverse range of architectural styles, from historic and quaint to modern and elegant. Six are in Dunedin and one is on a bayou in Tarpon Springs.
The holiday decor they display is just as varied, and includes the quaint (Old World goose feather trees) and the curious (a red-branched Christmas tree lit with red lights).
The self-guided tour runs Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 the day of the tour. Docents will be on hand at each house to point out special features.
Ticket holders are invited to a complimentary tea Saturday, with cookies and sandwiches from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. inside the cafeteria at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School in Dunedin.
No ticket is necessary to shop the Youth Guild's adjacent holiday boutique filled with handcrafted and specially selected items.
Proceeds from sale of boutique items and tour tickets benefit the youth of Dunedin.
In 2012, the Dunedin Youth Guild awarded scholarships totaling over $25,000 to high school seniors and college students. The guild also funds a variety of programs that benefit area school children.
This year's theme, "Santa's Helpers," is a tribute to all the hard-working guild members as well as homeowners who have spruced up their homes and started decorating early (some before Halloween) for this special fundraiser.
"We hope everyone will be a Santa's helper and bring canned goods and nonperishables to the tea and boutique," said tour chairwoman Jody Lambuth. "And buy a ticket for the tour. This is our largest fundraiser of the year and it's what helps us support the youth of Dunedin."
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Clara Ann Yarian, a potter and retired art teacher, has been collecting Old World goose feather Christmas trees since the 1980s.
"I've always admired the primitive shape and how they are really designed to showcase ornaments," she said.
The trees are made from dyed goose and turkey feathers attached to wires, which make up the thin, symmetrically tiered branches. These early artificial trees were brought to America in suitcases by German immigrants, Yarian said.
Along with the fine-feathered trees, her home boasts a fanciful collection of Christopher Radko ornaments, paper pulp holiday houses, handcrafted Teddy bears and hand-dipped candles.
The childhood home of Dunedin Highland Middle School principal Chris Bates is decked out for the holidays with impressive displays of more than 100 nutcrackers set against teal and green decor, inspired by the peacocks that roam the property.
The home was built in 1910 by the sons of Richard Leroy Garrison, a founding settler of Dunedin. The homestead eventually fell into disrepair and was nearly demolished when Bill Bates, Chris' father, bought it in 1965.
Chris and his wife, Kristen, took over the property several years ago, retrofitting it with air conditioning, new electric and plumbing, and renovating the baths and kitchen, all the while maintaining its 100-year-old farmhouse charm.
The simply elegant home of Teresa and Tucker Campion, located on the banks of Kreamer Bayou, is a little out of the way, but definitely worth the drive.
The couple totally renovated the 1956 home, expanding the back by 1,000 square feet and putting in large windows and French doors to maximize the waterfront views. Their most recent addition is a 400-square-foot gazebo in the back yard, perfect for viewing sunrises and throwing dinner parties.
"Every day, when I come home and look out at that view, I think I'm on vacation again," he says.
Holiday decor is in abundant supply here and accented with her large collection of handmade Longaberger baskets, creatively displayed for yuletide cheer.
Tucker is a retired Navy Seal commander. His many military awards and memorabilia are displayed in the office.
Look carefully at an old black-and-white photo that hangs on the wall. It shows his father, Thomas Campion, along with some other naval aviators, notably former President George H.W. Bush.
The tour also includes a Florida bungalow owned by Denise and Mark Beamer; the 1961 ranch home of Rebecca Wellborn and Richard Gillies; the art-filled villa of architect Rod Collman and his wife, Cindy; and the stylish home of Dunedin City Commissioner Dave Carson and his wife, Martha.
Terri Bryce Reeves can be reached at email@example.com.