Historical Society’s annual Tour of Homes successful once again


One of the staples of the Vermillion holiday season as the been the annual Tour of Homes.Once again, the Clay County Historical Society put on the traditional event this past Friday night. The tour featured five Vermillion houses and, as always, the Austin-Whittemore house with the sixth and central house on the tour.The home was built by Horace J. Austin in 1882 and it was donated to the Historical Society in 1969. Now, the home is furnished by items donated by local Clay County families.This year, the homes on the tour besides the Austin-Whittemore house were Phyllis Packard's, Brandi Deaver Wyatt's, John and Becca Jorde's, Jim and Ann Wilson's and Allen and Maxine's Johnson's.The tour always takes place on the first Friday of December. The attendance various from year to year, but the Historical Society President Cleo Erickson said there's usually 100 people who take part in the Tour of Homes."I would say it's pretty close to 100 people, and some years we have had as many as 150 to 170 people," she said. "Even though there are many things going on, it's well attended."There's a wide variety of people who go on the tour, Erickson said. Of course there are the people who attend every year, but Erickson said there have been people from outside Clay County who come and check out the homes."It's interesting because we get a lot of newcomers, even from out of town," she said. "We have gotten calls from Ponca, Yankton and Newcastle. It all works out well and we sold a lot of tickets."Tickets for the Tour of Homes cost $12.50 a person, with all the proceeds going to the Clay County Historical Society. It's one of the two fund raising events for the group during the year.Sometimes the weather plays a factor in how many people show up, either in a good or bad way."One year there was this light snow, and it looked like diamonds coming down; it was one of the most beautiful years," Erickson said. "This year, the weather really helped out."Each year the Austin-Whittemore house is decorated in a theme. One year the theme was old teddy bears. This year the feature was old toys, and Erickson said the theme was very popular.In one of the main living rooms, toys from decades long ago were put on top of a display case for everyone to see.Gloria Barnes and Ann Severson were in charge of the decorations, and Erickson said the two worked hard to make sure the house was ready."They worked many hours about two to three days a week," she said. "We decided on the living room in gold, the music room in silver and the dining room in the traditional red and green."Christmas trees and wreaths were common around the house, and Barnes said she and Severson didn't have to go far to find the decorations."We go to the thrift stores, and find different things and make some of the decorations; all the wreaths were homemade," Barnes said. "It's a lot of fun."The Historical Society even has its own cook for the event. Joe Hoffman takes care of all of the food. This year, his signature item was meatballs, with many other cheese and meat platters available."One thing that is always very important is the presentation of the food, and Hoffman brings in the glassware and the arrangement," Erickson said. "It's as attractive as any place you will find."For those who took part in the Tour of Homes, they could either start with the meal at the Austin-Whittemore house, or they could come back at anytime during the tour, which ran from 5 to 9 p.m.Packard's house is on 22 West Bloomingdale Street. The home was built in 1910 and was purchased by the Packards in 1974.One of the signature items in Packard's house is her loom, which she still uses. She purchased it about 35 years ago, and Packard is a professional with the loom.Brandi Deaver Wyatt's house is located on 322 Canby Street. She was helped by Deb Larson and Mary Kay Zimmerman in decorating the house, which was built in 1920. The house has been put on the Tour of Homes with all four of the owners.The house featured a Sesame Street tree, which is one of 17 that is put up. The person who put together the trees remains anonymous.John and Becca Jordre showed off their home at 12 Linden Ave. An old style pin-ball machine and church pew were two of the main items in the house.The west side of Vermillion featured one of the houses, this one by Jim and Ann Wilson on 1101 James Street. The house was built in 1968. An 18 by 9 foot atrium is located in the middle of the living room. The atrium extends downward through the basement, and the plants in the atrium help moderate the climate within the house.Allen and Maxine Johnson were owners of the fifth house on the tour, located at 2111 North University Road. I apologize as I was not able to make it to the house by 9 p.m.

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