by Vicki Ikeogu
As the classic carol exclaims “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” With a dusting of snow on the ground, the temperatures dipping and holiday music slowly making its long-awaited return to the radio airwaves, central Minnesotans are slowly embracing the fact the holiday season is just around the corner.
And for members of the Zonta Club of St. Cloud, the start of the holiday season would be incomplete without decking the halls in the home of a complete stranger.
The 28th annual Zonta Christmas House is slated to make its appearance just outside of St. Joseph Nov. 17 and 18.
Kirsten Freeman, co-chair of the Zonta Christmas House, expects about 1,400 people from around the area to walk through a private home located at 10896 North Ridge Lane in Avon.
“I think the best part of the Christmas House is you don’t know what you’re going to find when you step inside the home,” Freeman said.
The Zonta Christmas House is a traveling Christmas home-decorating display. The process of selecting the home starts in the spring and early summer.
Homes that are usually featured are more luxurious homes in the area.
“We meet with homeowners of prospective Christmas House hosts a couple of times,” Freeman said. “We need to make sure the home has a proper flow to it. Typically, that means people can enter through the main door, travel upstairs and downstairs and then leave through the garage.”
Once the home has been accepted, central Minnesota store owners and professional decorators can select which room they would like to decorate.
“We have a few rules for them,” Freeman said. “They have to do a Christmas theme and cannot do any damage to the home.”
Freeman said these rules force the designers to get creative. Often, the designers use the existing furniture as part of the display.
“We don’t disrupt the homeowners’ property too much,” Freeman said. “We still want their dining room to look like a dining room and their bedrooms to look like bedrooms.”
About 20 decorators throughout the area have agreed to take on a portion of the home. Each decorator donates their time and products. Every room, including the bathrooms, gets a Christmas makeover.
“(For the decorators) this has to be really well planned out,” Freeman said. “And each room is so vastly different and so creative.”
In addition to the Christmas festivities on the inside of the home, Freeman said the outside of the home gets some of that Christmas cheer.
Emerald Companies and Heim-Kins Rescued Treasures will decorate the exterior with lights and lawn décor.
“It’s a fun activity for Zonta to do,” said Laurie Oppel, a Zonta Club of St. Cloud member. “And on a community level, all of the money generated from ticket sales for the Christmas House goes back into the community.”
The Zonta Club of St. Cloud is a chapter of Zonta International, an organization with a mission to help empower women through service and advocacy.
Proceeds from the local women’s chapter are donated to Anna Marie’s Alliance, a shelter for women escaping situations of domestic violence; and Journey Home, a housing provider that helps women overcome addiction while still maintaining custody of their children.
Zonta Club of St. Cloud also uses a portion of the funding raised to sponsor scholarships for women.
“Our reach goes far beyond the Christmas House,” Freeman said.
The Zonta Club of St. Cloud is hoping to raise $15,000 during its 24-hour event. About half will be raised through ticket sales and the rest is made up from the Christmas House’s 42 sponsors.
“The Zonta Christmas House really does kick off the Christmas season,” Freeman said. “And we do hope to see a lot of people.”
The Zonta Club of St. Cloud advises its Christmas homes are not handicap-accessible. Young children are discouraged from attending.
The Zonta Christmas House will be open from 3-9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17 and from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18. Tickets are available in advance and at the door. Reduced tickets may be purchased at select Coborn’s stores, both the Waite Park and St. Cloud Cash Wise Foods locations, Craft’s Direct and Westside Liquor in Waite Park.
Vicki Ikeogu is a local freelance reporter from St. Cloud. Ikeogu is a 2015 mass communications graduate from St. Cloud State University. Ikeogu was previously the business reporter at the St. Cloud Times. She currently works as a transportation planner for the Saint Cloud Area Planning Organization.