Homes for the holidays in Oak Harbor

Alma Williams looks up at the decorations in Barb and Bob Jacobs’ home. - Sara Hansen/Whidbey News-Times
Alma Williams looks up at the decorations in Barb and Bob Jacobs’ home.
— image credit: Sara Hansen/Whidbey News-Times

Making their way through the yule tide decorations, guests were amazed at the work Melanie Hand put into her home.

With three full trees, two small ones on the bar and another placed in a sitting room — everyone was in awe of the details.

And that doesn’t include all of the Santas that were in the house.

Hand said she was giving out a present to anyone who was close to guessing how many St. Nicks were on display. Guesses rang out from throughout the home by those taking the tour.

A few came close to the correct number — 148.

Hand’s home was part of  the fifth annual Christmas Home Tour organized by Soroptimist International of Oak Harbor. The club sold more than 200 tickets for the event, held Saturday, Dec. 14, said Kathy Doll, one of the event organizers.

Doll’s home was on the tour four years ago.

To get the house ready for the tour, Hand said she took a week off from work to decorate.

“I was in my PJ’s, with a pony tail and hot tea getting it all done,” Hand said.

Normally it takes her a lot longer if she has to work during the day, leaving only the evenings to decorate.

This is Hand’s first year being a part of the tour. She works at Whidbey Island Bank and hosted the work Christmas party at her house.

When her boss saw her home, she told her she should be part of the home tour.

“I love to share my home with people,” Hand said. “We’re always having people over here, always.”

Hand and her husband Darin met over Christmas, so the holiday has always been special to them.

Her husband built a three-car garage to store their decorations. Previously, they had to rent storage unit.

They didn’t always decorate their home as much as they do now, Hand said.

“When we were overseas we only had one tree,” Hand said. “When we got back to Oak Harbor, I got a little crazy.”

While homeowners worked hard to decorate for all the tour-goers, attendees also wanted to dress up for the occasion as well. From Santa hats, red boas and tiaras, to elf hats, festive groups would make the rounds together.

One group of ladies wore elf hats with lighted necklaces and called themselves “the naughty elves.”

“We’re naughty elves because we’re lit,” Alma Williams joked.

Along with her companions, Brenda Ackley and Mary Benninghoff, the trio dresses up for all the tours, which has become a tradition.

“We are the original naughty elves,” Ackley said.

They’ve attended the home tour all five years, and every year they have a potluck after, which they let their husbands attend, Ackley said.

“They’re guarding the crock pots right now,” Ackley said.

Others said they like the familiarity of walking through thoughtfully decorated homes.

“It feels like you’re going to grandma’s house,” said Chris Lock, Oak Harbor resident.

Lock has been coming on the tour for the past three years. Before she moved to Oak Harbor, she would go on other Christmas home tours. While she was in Pearl Harbor, she and other Navy wives went touring together.

Among the stops on this year’s Whidbey tour was at Barb Jacobs’ home. She chaired the event for four years, but was never able to host.

Doll stepped in to help so Jacobs was able to be part of the tour this year, Jacobs said.

Part of the reason for starting the tour five years ago was to offer a holiday event, Jacobs said.

“We did’t have one in Oak Harbor, and it seemed like something that the community would like,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs home featured an upside Christmas tree, which is advantageous when living in a condo.

“You don’t have to move any furniture,” Jacobs said.

She and her husband Bob, decorated it with a culinary and wine connoisseur theme. The new additions to the decorations this year were four elves who are sneaking wine at the top of the tree. Bob wired wine glasses to their hands and then placed them in the top parts of the tree, with one balancing precariously from a ledge by the ceiling.

“I’ve already have plans for next year,” Bob said.

At every home, guests were able to get a sense of the homeowners personalities. Jacobs describes herself as more whimsical, while her neighbor, and friend, Nancy Fey was more elegant.

Fey focused her decorations around the nativity scene because of her faith. She also said she likes angels and decorating with gold and white.

Her tree was filled with angels and word ornaments, which read phrases such as noel, peace, rejoice and hope.

“I like to say that my tree talks to you,” Fey said.

Carol Seth, Fey’s and Jacobs’ downstairs neighbor, also took part in the tour. She decided to host after being approached by her neighbors.

“I liked it because it made me decorate early,” Seth said.


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