“Beautiful homes, beautiful memories”
Copyright 2009 
By Joanie Buettgen

Christmas is fast approaching. Soon our homes will be filled with excitement and the arrival of family, friends and out of town guests.

Last weekend in our community, the holiday spirit was in the air with many visitors for the Watertown Area Fine Arts Council (WAFAC) 2009 Christmas Tour of Homes.

Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Mary Lou Jirik, a member of WAFAC, at her charming home. Over freshly brewed tea; she shared the history of this annual event.

“In 1987 I was together with a group of women, and we were talking about Tim and Annie Otten’s house on Angel Ave. It was up the hill from the dam and a Victorian home. Somebody mentioned that Ottens had a beautiful landscaped yard.” Jirik then commented, “Well, if you think that pretty … you should see the inside of the house.”

Jirik approached Ottens, and asked about doing a house tour. Annie said, “Sure … we’d loved to do it.”

“Then, we found four other homes, and that was the beginning of the Christmas Home Tour,” said Jirik. “It was down at first from the Catholic Church where we did it. It started out as a fundraiser for the Ladies Guild.”

As our beautiful season approaches, many families want to spruce up their homes for the holidays. Getting local ideas from these tours will surely help you beautify your residence this season. If you did not attend — here’s a quick newspaper tour.

First on the tour was the Chadwick’s rural home.

The home was beautifully decorated outside with the fresh scent of cedar roping on their large front porch. Even their dog came up and greeted me with a wag of his tail. Ed Chadwick’s brother, who is a floral designer, designed and decorated their home for the tour. The Chadwick house is a totally green house. Outside the whole house is heated by a wood burning furnace.

Second stop on the tour was the Foley home. Jirik commented, “We have the Foley’s home right here in Watertown. It’s a beautiful home.”

Third stop was the home of Butch and Sherry Essig. Sherry had a merry time purchasing new ornaments and decorations after a fire in 2008 destroyed their residence. Walking around their home, many beautiful items were neatly arranged, such as a white angel that sat on top of her new kitchen cabinets. Surely, these wonderful sights will delight her grandchildren for years to come. Continuing down to the basement, Sherry and her daughter had a blast decorating with card tables for games, big comfy couches, and a lot of fun wall decorations for all 17 grandchildren. Now, they will have new memories to share with their family.

Remembering past tours, Jirik stated, “We had such a hard time finding homes that we discontinued it. Then about five years ago a young woman asked if we were ever going to have the Christmas Home Tour again. We said let’s do it for Fine Arts and maybe get more people. Now, we do this event and fundraiser. We also applied for the Metro Regional Arts Council Grant; we have our cookie sale at Christmas time and a garden tour fundraiser in July. Those are our main sources of our programs and are free. We never charge for anything.”

The last tour was at Kris and Peter Campbell’s. This will be their second Christmas in their new home. Peter and Kris grew up in Watertown. After moving to the big city they decided to move back to their hometown after being away for 25 years. In their great room the massive 30-foot Christmas tree felt right at home. Even their golden retriever dog wanted to sit by the cozy fireplace and have his picture taken with Mom and Dad. The home was located right off Highway 7 so people could hop right on, and then head home.

In closing, Jirik would like to remind the community that the Fine Arts Council is a group of dedicated volunteers who spend many hours fundraising so that the people of the community can enjoy free cultural entertainment.

We hope that everyone will be inspired to make their own Christmas memories this season.

Contact Joanie at or at her blog:,


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