Homes for the Holidays

Local homeowners partner with Hudson Chamber businesses for the annual Holiday Homes Tour.

For the past 31 years during the holiday season, Hudson home and business owners have partnered for the annual Hudson Christmas Tour of Homes and Craft Sale, which invites the public to a tradition to inspire the festive spirit of the season.

Organized by the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, the event welcomes around 2,000 tour-goers to privately owned homes, as well as the historic Octagon House, which are each uniquely adorned in their most festive holiday décor.

“It’s more than  just your typical Christmas tree. We even decorate the laundry rooms,” says Andrea Jorgenson, director of communications and programs for the Hudson Chamber of Commerce. The chamber plans for the event all year, from selecting the homes to coordinating tour logistics. Homeowners are typically selected by June, and the majority of decorating is completed well before Halloween.
“We really try to get diversity in homes. This is not about being a model homeowner, it’s about the decorations. We encourage small homes. We try to have an old home and a contemporary home to mix it up,” Jorgenson says.

The decorations and vignettes might be inspired by the homeowners’ own traditions. We’ve had a homeowner who was very into his garage decorate a tree in his garage with hardware, tools, wrenches and two snowmobiles under his tree,“ Jorgenson says.
“It’s become a driving force for the holidays here in Hudson as a kick-off event and is one of the biggest shopping days of the year in downtown Hudson,” says Jorgenson, who notes an average of 30 businesses are active in the event.

Homeowners Diane and Tim Zais participated in the tour for the first time in 2016. “In my home, you find lots of repurposed items and DIY projects,” Diane Zais says. “I love to find bargains and cast-off items and give them new life. I also love a traditional look mixed with unique décor. We have lived in our home for 25 years and have raised our three daughters here. As you can imagine, it is filled with many wonderful memories.”
The Zaises created a unique Santa’s workshop outside and featured a Wisconsin Badger-themed basement.

In 2016, homeowners Jeff and Chris Gibson enjoyed creating vignettes with their collection of vintage treasures from Jeff’s grandmother. “Our home is only 12 years old, but has a vintage charm. I use vintage items as accessories year-round, but at Christmas it is full-tilt,” says Chris Gibson, who created bookshelf vignettes with everyday household items like her vintage thermos collection and cookbooks, along with holiday decorations.

“We have a fondness for the album Christmas with Dino, so my son’s room is inspired by the song ‘A Marshmallow World’ by Dean Martin,” adds Gibson, who hand-strung a snowfall of marshmallow garland from the ceiling. (Gibson also created a unique tree in her daughter’s room, which was decorated with her sports medals as ornaments and ribbons as garland.)

Tour veterans Tom and Lauren Foust opened their home in 1992, 2001 and 2016. “The inspiration for our décor is the age of our home. Our home was built in 1904. I think old homes are so beautiful dressed up for Christmas,” Lauren Foust says. “We use a lot of garland, beads and old ornaments. We have an old tin tree up in the attic with toys from our childhood underneath. This will bring back so many memories for people.”

One creative touch was a Christmas village displayed inside a vintage briefcase in Tom’s office; another: “Our 5-year-old granddaughter decorated the tree in her room. We are leaving it as she decorated it. Who doesn’t smile at the cluster of ornaments at a 5-year-old level,” Foust says. “One of our sons, who is finishing college this year and still has a room here, has a snowman collection that is displayed in his room. I find myself going from room to room enjoying the sense of nostalgia that I feel each Christmas.”

Homeowners agree it is an honor to be selected for the tour. “We moved to Hudson 10 years ago, and after I went on my first tour I wanted to have my house on it. It took me eight years to be chosen, and I couldn’t be more thrilled,” Nancy Dietze says. “Our home is decorated with what I like to call ‘military potpourri.’ Fred was in the Army for 20 years, and we were stationed all over, plus we love to travel. Since retiring, we have done even more traveling with our volunteering for Kiwanis International. So the house is ‘Christmas Around the World’ in its style of decorating.”

Not only is the event a huge undertaking for business and homeowners, but many volunteers are needed to help facilitate traffic flow and security.

“Depending on the size of the home, there can be about 25–35 volunteers per home on various shifts,” Jorgenson says. “We are also always in need of ticket-sellers and a decorating task force. It’s a real community effort.”

The tour typically is held over the Wisconsin hunting opener the weekend before Thanksgiving, making it a popular ladies’ weekend, and there is a special list of lodging properties that offer discounts for the tour weekend. “It is very much a generational tradition. We have mothers, daughters, granddaughters going,” Jorgenson says.

Chamber member businesses also participate in a “purple bow contest,” where tour tickets are entered into drawings for prizes. Participating stores are marked with a purple bow. Shoppers also can enjoy a craft sale and marketplace at the Hudson House Grand Hotel with jewelry, apparel, ornaments, household goods and gourmet foods.

The event offers a traditional tour on Saturday and Sunday, which includes transportation, or you can drive yourself. The shuttle stops also include time downtown for lunch and plenty of holiday shopping. Last year, the event also offered a Dazzle Tour on Friday night, where people viewed the homes amid the nighttime sparkle and glow.

All told, the tour takes about three to four hours to complete. There can be waiting lines outside homes, so tour-goers are encouraged to dress for the weather. And you’re required to take off those slushy shoes, so if you go, consider wearing your most festive socks!