CLAYTON -- With Thanksgiving barely in the rearview mirror, residents opening their homes for the upcoming Christmas Home Tour began unpacking boxes of holiday decorations to prepare for the fourth annual event.
There are always a variety of homes decorated for the season, said JoAnn Caspar, president of the board of directors of the nonprofit Clayton Historical Society, which sponsors the tour.
Marilyn Fitzgerald has often aided others in adorning homes for the holidays, but this is the first year she and her husband Dirk have volunteered to display their own house, and showcase her Santa collection, which numbers well over 100. Some are displayed on a sideboard where she has a tree with little Santas.
On Christmas Eve, the Fitzgerald family traditionally exchanged new tree ornament, she explained.
"Now the tree is overflowing."
The decorations start going up the day after Thanksgiving and Fitzgerald says it takes a solid week to complete. She decorates everything in her home, and most all of it will be on view.
Sue Faina and her husband Keith often thought about volunteering their home for the tour, but this is the first year they said yes.
"We go crazy decorating everything," she said. "We love Christmas. We have different themes. When we started we just had one room that was Disney ... with so much Disney it morphed into two rooms, the living and family room -- even the bathroom."
"I have a lot of Christmas things," said tour participant Vicki Hufford. "I love Christmas."
Hufford and her husband Merle lived overseas both in England and in Indonesia for many years, and during their numerous travels collected ornaments and other baubles for the holidays.
"We have a little bit of everything," she said. "There's a Santa collection in one room and miniature trees with different themes."
In the dining room she has her collection of English Spode Christmas Tree china on display. Most importantly for those touring her home, she will be available to recount many of the stories that accompany her travel treasures.
"I am a people person and I love to be here," she said.
Hufford encourages visitors to ask her about the pub decoration she found in England and her lending it to the famed department store Harrod's for display.
"I am not the typical holiday decorator," says Megan Kommer. "I don't have any real collections ... so I use a lot of lights." Although she got a late start this year, help from a friend on decorating tricks are turning her home in to a must-see.
She also decorates every room.
"My tag line is "Every room is Christmas."
Kommer encourages people to come and see her home, as many of her decorating tricks are easily duplicated.
The Gonsalves family also got help from friends to set up a winter wonderland display in their dining room. But the favorite part of this home is the kitchen area where once again it has been decked out gingerbread style.
There are men, women and children all made of gingerbread standing about the houses made of candy, candy canes, cookies and cakes. In the living room are snowmen, snow globes and music boxes.
Tour participant Kommer said, "I am really looking forward to seeing other peoples homes."
The half-dozen homeowners selected for the tour get a sneak peek at each others' homes before they are opened to the public Sunday for fundraising.
"It's one of our main fundraisers," said Caspar. "This year we are planning on making around $6,000."
All proceeds are used to maintain the history museum and its garden, which Caspar says costs $20,000 to $24,000 each year and "we don't get money from anyone."
Decking homes and gardens with lights, trees and all things Christmas is a tradition for most Clayton Valley residents and getting a glimpse inside the few selected homes has long been a mainstay, said Fitzgerald, who recalled the years when the Clayton Valley Woman's Club decorated homes for the tour.
After a hiatus, the Clayton Historical Society took over the tour task and with a few changes in format, the popular self-guided tour is attracting more and more visitors.
People should allow about two hours for the tour, which begins at the history museum with a booklet that serves as both ticket and guide. Most houses are clustered around the same area and there are plenty of signs.
"These homes are fabulous," said Caspar.
WHAT: Fourth annual Clayton Historical Society Christmas Home Tour
WHEN: Noon to 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15
WHERE: Self-guided tour starts at Clayton Historical Museum, 6101 Main St., Clayton
TICKETS: $30 (tax-deductible)
INFORMATION: Call 925-672-7680 or email email@example.com