Christmas tour taps into tradition

Published 9:20 pm Monday, November 26, 2012

Becky Sipprell, owner of Moss House Bed and Breakfast, starts the decorating process on her Van Norden Street home. The 1902 home is one of seven, along with three churches, slated for the 13th-annual Holiday Christmas Tour of Homes on Saturday. (WDN Photo/Vail Stewart Rumley)

For most, the Holiday Christmas Tour of Homes means a once-a-year chance to get a peek inside fine homes, in all their sparkling holiday glory. For others, this year’s tour has another meaning: tradition, or more precisely, continuing a fledgling tradition.
This Saturday, three churches and seven homes in Washington and Cypress Landing will be opened to ticket-holders coming from across eastern North Carolina, to tour the Christmas finery, said Virginia Finnerty, one of the tour’s organizers.
It almost didn’t happen. The holiday tour, started as fundraiser for the Turnage Theater, nearly fell by the wayside this year since the theater closed last December, explained Joey Toler, executive director of the Beaufort County Arts Council. Finnerty, along with organizer Jeff Phipps, refused to let the tradition die and approached Toler about reviving the tour.
“We are actually presenting it, and it’s going to be a fundraiser for the arts council,” Toler said. “We’re grateful for it, it’s a great opportunity and they’ve done a great job getting it together.”
Finnerty said she and other organizers believe the tour can become a real draw for Washington each year for people within a 100-mile radius, that is, if the tour stays new and fresh.
“I think it needs to be, first of all, new homes every year … varying the tradition … homes that have not been on the tour, or haven’t been on the tour in a long time or are under new ownership, so there’s not the same décor, ” Finnerty explained. “We need continuity; we need to build on it every year and every year we have a nice selection of different homes.”
Turning the homes tour into a Washington tradition known throughout the region has put volunteers, armed with posters and fliers, in Edenton, Wilson, Rocky Mount, Greenville, Plymouth, Bath, Belhaven and New Bern. The target audience: women.
“When my house was on the tour, I did not see one guy,” laughed Finnerty. “It was groups of women. It was really rather funny.”
As owner of the Pamlico House Bed and Breakfast on Washington’s East Main Street, Finnerty has gotten creative with the marketing, tapping into her mailing lists of previous guests to let them know about the Saturday tour and that downtown Washington merchants will be giving extra incentive to stick around and shop with 10-percent discounts on meals and purchases at many restaurants and shops.
Every ticket to the tour is a chance to win a gift basket, filled with all things Washington: wine and souvenir glasses, Beaufort County Arts Council’s “Plate and Palette” cookbook, Washington Area Historic Foundation’s Christmas ornament, among other items, all valued at over $80, Finnerty said
While this year’s tour may have been picked up late in the game, Finnerty said, she has a long list of volunteers for next year.
“We’re excited that people are excited to participate in the future,” she said.
As for this year, organizers are counting on the same great turnout in years past.
Tickets for the Holiday Christmas Tour of Homes ($20 in advance/$25 on tour day) can be purchased at the Beaufort County Arts Council, The Little Shoppes of Washington and the Beaufort County-Washington Chamber of Commerce.