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Tour of Homes: Festive, fun and a lot of work

Carol Palm sits in front of a unique tree she found while driving between Hudson and New Richmond. Palm took on the task of decorating Holly Jones’ home for the tour. You don’t have to worry about needles falling from this tree because there aren’t any. (Hudson Star-Observer photo by Margaret A. Ontl)1 / 3
Chris Dillingham, owner of the Hello the House, is putting the finishing touches on the mirror in the entrance to Holly Jones’ house. (Hudson Star-Observer photo by Margaret A. Ontl)2 / 3
From the left are Kathy Newman, owner of Et Cetera, Cindy Stepan, volunteer, and home owner Cherie Mockler tackle decorating the stairway. (Hudson Star-Observer photo by Margaret A. Ontl)3 / 3

You know Christmas is in the air when the Hudson Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau’s Christmas Tour of Homes is on the schedule. The annual event is this weekend. Volunteers and business owners have been busy for nearly a month getting the homes ready to dazzle visitors.

The tour is always the weekend before Thanksgiving, which coincides with the opening the deer hunting season in Wisconsin so it is a great way to kick off the holiday season.

Carol Palm is one person who just can’t get the Tour of Homes out of her system. She has had five of her own homes on the tour and has helped many other homeowners create special holiday effects.

This year she is working with homeowner Holly Jones who gave Palm carte blanche to do whatever she wanted.

“I just like coming up with different things and when they let me do my own thing it’s great,” said Palm.

Palm has a knack for taking items from nature and using them in ways the average person could never imagine.

Palm, a native of Rhinelander, makes two trips up north every year to search for anything she might be able to use. She hauls back her favorites -- hollow birch logs, winter berries, logs, greens, branches, clumps of moss and pine cones.

“I love the stuff that’s free,” said Palm of her earthly harvest. “I am always looking in the woods even when I am driving, looking for just the right thing.” For years she has wanted to decorate a dead pine tree and this year while driving between New Richmond and Hudson she spotted just the right one. The owner agreed to let her cut it and now it is the centerpiece tree in Holly Jones’ living room.

It is the simple and inexpensive details that make Palm’s homes favorites with visitors. They feel like they can recreate them in their own homes.

“I think about the tour year round,” said Palm. “They say I am crazy but I enjoy it. This year has been amazing. Even when I see other things that are not Christmas related I try to imagine how I could use them.”

From the 33 candles on the mantle in the living room to the 56 plus trees (see if you can find them all) Jones’ home is decked out for the holidays. Some of the trees are two dimensional. Palm actually painted trees on the walls.

“It has been an idea I have had for a long time,” said Palm. “I love the end result when it really comes together.”

The Christmas Tour of Homes committee works all year touring perspective homes and planning the event. It is also the liaison between the homeowners, the retailers and the committee.

“It is a delicate balance of bringing in that memorable touch between the talent and resources of retailers and maintaining the individual style of the homeowners,” said Andrea Jorgenson, Director of Communications and Programs for the Chamber. The committee members are often relied upon to provide a lot of decorating time with the homeowners.

On the committee this year are Carol Palm, interior designer/previous homeowner; Chris Dillingham, retailer/interior designer; Kathy Newman, retailer/interior designer/previous homeowner; Deb Vogler, previous homeowner; Genie Castro, artist/previous homeowner; Julie Davis, previous homeowner; and Kelli Mutschler, previous homeowner.

A decorating task force made up of volunteers comes in the last two weeks to add the last minute touches.

Tickets are still available from the Hudson Chamber office at 502 Second St. If you are paying by check or cash you may also pick them up at Seasons on St. Croix, Lavender Thymes and the Hudson House Grand Hotel. The tour features five homes and the historic Octagon House. It runs Friday night, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.