BY Jo Anne McKnight, Contributing writer
On Saturday, Dec. 8, 3-8 p.m., the 10th annual Semmes Christmas Tour will be presented by the Semmes Woman’s Club, with advertising sponsorship by the city of Semmes and Mobile County Commissioner Connie Hudson. The starting point will be a tasting tour at Allentown Elementary School, 10330 Howells Ferry Road, from 3-4:30 p.m.
Tickets are a $10 per person donation in advance and are available at Semmes Senior Center, Meggie B’s and online at Eventbrite.com. Admission is $12 at the door at Allentown Elementary School. Proceeds from the tour benefit a new Semmes Senior Center project and Semmes Woman’s Club ongoing projects.
The tour this year consists of five homes, four businesses and a public park. Semmes Christmas Tour is endorsed as an Alabama 200 bicentennial event, with two of the decorated homes having historic ties and categorized as “Honoring our People.” Opened to the public by gracious hosts families, the homes are all different in decor and reflect the personalities, lifestyles and taste of the families who live there.
Miranda and Bo Wilder’s home is a newly built farmhouse blending the new with the old and showcasing Miranda’s family, the Grimes Nursery Family. Its connection with the past gives it a special historical value: the kitchen cabinets and dining table are made of wood that in a previous life, were the frames of greenhouses.
Miranda’s great grandmother, Reba Grimes, started Grimes Nursery in Semmes in 1940, and the many photos lining the walls in the stairwell and placed strategically at other focal points give visitors a view of Semmes life for the past 70 years.
Christin and Michael Bumstead share their home with two children, Collins and Lucy. There are trees everywhere in the Bumsteads’ home — an old-fashioned aluminum tree, Collins’ boy-themed tree, small modern triangle shaped trees, Lucy’s silvery ballerina and nutcracker tree and three trees to reflect the Tale of the Three Trees. Plus, since Michael played professional baseball — the Padres, the Mariners, the Rangers — one tall, pencil tree is covered in sports-related decorations, including a houndstooth hat and a “star” and a “skirt” of baseballs and footballs.
Linda Johnson is known in the Semmes area for hosting tea parties for children and adults, for all occasions. It’s a tradition she’s carried on from her mother. She also sees the tea parties as a ministry, a way of bringing people together over a pot of tea. Linda might also be noted for her collection of white teddy bears. She has no particular reason for collecting; she just likes them, and she features them in several rooms.
The home of Donna and Semmes Fire Chief Kevin Brooks will be gaily decorated inside and out. Look for the Angel Room and the pool area.
Taylor Floyd will be showing the historic Howell House, which she uses for her businesses, Sweet T’s Hair Studio. The home was built around 1897 for the Marsh family; it was purchased by Curt and Clara Howell circa 1917, and The Howell children grew up there. The house is still a home, and each room carries a different old-fashioned tree. One is white and silver; another is decorated with nutcrackers; another, traditional; one in gingerbread and one with ornaments made by children in Semmes Woman’s Club member Susan Hubbard’s class.
Semmes businesses on the tour include Air Specialty Inc., Meggie B’s, Stokley’s Garden Express and Ruby Blue Boutique. All will be decorated and most are offering extended shopping hours and discounts for those on the tour.
Air Specialty features a Christmas village with Santa’s workshop, a bake shop, a church and other “buildings” constructed from materials used in the business. Meggie B’s in Harmony Corners has a diverse array of novel gift ideas, and this year, there’ll be free Santa pictures and face painting.
Stokley’s Garden Express offers not only fresh green Christmas trees, plants and wreaths, but decorations, gifts and all the makings for a Fairy Garden. Ruby Blue Boutique, also in Harmony Corners, stocks high-quality boutique trends at affordable prices, and the store will be decked out in Christmas décor and discounts.
At Camellia Park — transformed into Dr. Seuss’ Whoville — the Grinch (Robert Moore) and Santa Claus (Rob Bearden) will greet children there, then rotate to different sites on the tour.
One of the most popular aspects of the tour is the “Taste of Semmes” at Allentown Elementary School from 3-4:30 p.m. Eighteen eateries and specialty shops will provide samples of their favorite dishes for guests to enjoy.
And, for the second year, guests will receive a tour map at the tasting tour (one per household). To be eligible for the reward prize drawing, guests will have their maps punched at all Christmas tour stops. They will turn in the fully punched map at the last stop to be eligible to win a prize (no purchase required). A drawing will be held the following week and winners will be notified.
Prize donors include Ashley Furniture, Jamie Tapia, Bella and Bow’s Pet Market, Charlie’s Honey, Elegant Nails, ISO4U, Phyllis Bell, Jarvis Nursery, Latham Bee Farm, Leigh’s Wreaths, Meggie B’s Gifts, Mesh by Vanessa, Oopsie Daisy Florist, Ruby Blue Boutique, Second Impression, Semmes Woman’s Club, Target, Walmart and Warren Gatwood.
In addition to Semmes Woman’s Club members and other community volunteers, Mary G Montgomery High School Azalea Trail Maids and Semmes Camellia Maids, MGM Academy Ambassadors, Key Club and other service clubs and organizations will help at the tasting tour and host homes.
Jo Anne McKnight is a local writer; visit blog joannemcknight.com for more community news.