Lake and Sumter Style Magazine
7:52 pm EST
Thursday, February 25, 2021

Holiday splendor

The 40th annual Christmas Tour of Homes showcases seven Mount Dora homes festively decorated in yuletide spirit.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Boughs of holly, decorated trees, Santa figurines, and snowmen décor will be sights to see when the Women’s Committee of Fine Arts of Mount Dora hosts its annual Christmas Tour of Homes from 11am-4pm Dec. 2-3.

“People love going to homes to see what others do for Christmas,” says Sandie Moery, chairwoman of the 2017 tour.

All proceeds from the $20 per person event go toward $1,000 scholarships awarded to high school students in Mount Dora, Eustis, Tavares, Umatilla, Mount Dora Christian Academy, and Lake County Virtual School.

“We have a lot of really talented young people in the Lake County area,” Sandie says of students seeking to pursue college studies in performing or visual arts.

Applications will be online in March, tryouts in April, and scholarship winners perform at an awards banquet in late spring. Anywhere from eight to 16 scholarships are given annually, based on the success of the home tour.

The tour is the Women’s Committee of Fine Arts’ main fundraiser, Sandie says, proudly noting her group has awarded more than $314,000 in scholarships, including $56,000 in the past four years.

Some 356 students have received scholarships, she says, adding 241 homes have been showcased since the first tour in 1977, drawing 500 to nearly 1,000 visitors each year.

“The Women’s Committee of Fine Arts is a bunch of women very passionate about scholarships, and the homeowners are passionate about it, too,” Sandie says.

Homes featured in the December tour are revealed the days of the event. Guests should go to the clubhouse of the Country Club of Mount Dora, 1900 Country Club Blvd., to receive a wristband and a map with addresses of the houses. Five homes are located in Country Club of Mount Dora; the other two are in downtown Mount Dora. A musician is at each residence performing holiday tunes.

Sandie predicts the homeowners will start decorating their homes this month, and many may embellish their Christmas trees with ornaments of special significance.

“Anything goes,” Sandie says, recalling the tree of a past home tour was decorated with teacups and silverware. Another featured gingerbread houses.

“My tree in my living room has over 1,000 ornaments on it from the time I was a little girl. A few are my grandmother’s, some are my mother’s, and things that my kids made,” says Sandie, whose home was featured in the 2011 tour.

She traditionally puts up five Christmas trees and displays her extensive Santa collection.

The majority of Sandie’s ornaments on her family room tree were inexpensive ones she purchased from a dollar store. “They all looked like antique German ornaments, and it showed people they can decorate a really nice tree and not spend a lot of money,” she says.

Sandie plans to have her home “tour ready,” just in case another homeowner has to cancel at the last minute.

“All of the people who go through the homes are so nice. It’s like having the biggest, best party that you ever want to have,” Sandie says. “I met a brother of a girl I went to high school with in Michigan. He came through my home when it was on tour. It’s just that much fun.”

Peggy Bixby, co-chairperson, showcased her lake home two years ago, when visitors toured six decorated rooms, and she also enjoyed being part of the event.

“When you get the decorating done early, it’s a big relief. The stress is over after that,” Peggy says. “The tour is a very worthy cause.”

Some 120 volunteers—members of the club—work in shifts at the homes and guide visitors to keep the flow moving smoothly while answering questions. The volunteers are educated about the homes and know special stories about the decorations.

Anyone can become a member of the Women’s Committee of Fine Arts of Mount Dora—it’s not limited to Mount Dora residents. The cost is $25 annually, and the only requirement is members must help during the home tour. Gina Conway is the current president.

Sandie says many individuals are part of the tour’s success.

“Everything we do is due to the homeowners and to all the women who join as committee members. Without them, we could not put this on,” she says. “If we don’t have the women man the houses, we couldn’t have a tour, because we can’t just let 1,000 people go through the homes. What is very nice about our group, especially the board members, is we all work together as a team.”

Tour tickets may be purchased at the event or on the group’s website: