WENDELL - As Christmas marches ever closer on the calendar, the Candlelight Home Tour is becoming more of a not-to-be-missed event.
Wendell Historical Society President Chris Smith said this year's event is expected to be the largest so far. Organizers have placed 11 homes and businesses on the tour, ranging from large old mansions in the downtown district to more circumspect homes along the town's main corridor and even businesses such as the Chamber of Commerce office and the town's lone bed and breakfast.
This year's tour begins at 3 p.m. Saturday and runs until 8 p.m. Tickets and maps of the tour are available at the Old Post Office on Fourth Street, which doubles as the first stop on the tour.
Smith says the event has become a much anticipated experience.
"I started getting questions from people in October who wanted to know when we were going to hold the tour," said Smith, whose own home on South Main Street is part of the tour for the second year in a row. "People expect us to do it now."
The tour combines the holiday spirit and a chance to learn about the town's history. Many of the homeowners spend weeks decorating for the tour and they are knowledgeable about the history of their homes, which comes in handy.
"It's great that we can tell these stories to people. It's one of the ways we keep the history of Wendell alive and relevant," Smith said.
This year's tour includes some stops that have been part of the tour in years past, but there are several homes on the map this year, participating for the first time.
Hugh and Mary Jo Cashion are opening their home on the corner of Old Zebulon Road and Wendell Boulevard this year. The home used to be a funeral home. A few doors down, Mary Wynne Vaughan is participating in the tour this year, opening her childhood home to visitors.
Town Commissioner Christie Adams is also getting into the spirit. Adams and her husband Lee are taking part in the tour this year as well, opening their home on Selma Road.
Downtown, at the Chamber of Commerce, organizers of the Farmers' Market are setting up for one final hurrah this season, as they try to give visitors a taste of what's available at the market when warmer weather returns.
Smith says the tour has become a real boon for the town in many ways.
"It brings people within the town out to see each other and it brings people from out of town into Wendell," Smith said.
Visitors on the self-guided tour will be met by greeters and musicians and other entertainers are set up at most of the stops along the tour.
"People will have a chance to see how the homeowners have decorated and, for a lot of them, it will bring back some old memories," Smith said.
Candelight tour beats back snow
WENDELL - Within a few minutes of the start of Saturday's Candlelight Holiday Tour, big fat snowflakes started drifting from the sky.
Those snowflakes quickly turned to freezing rain, but the showcase event continued. Organizers feared the wintry weather might dampen turnout, but visitors streamed into the old Wendell Post Office to pick up tickets and maps of the tour. Within the first 90 minutes, Wendell Historical Society treasurer Ray Hinnant said more than 50 people had already braved the elements to go on the tour.
The third annual event, this year's tour featured a mix of homes and businesses, including the 70-year old home of Hugh and Mary Jo Cashion on Wendell Boulevard. The couple had some interesting help providing visitors with tours. Cee Todd, who grew up in the home hosted visitors to the Cashion home, pointing out unique features.
Todd was one of a number of volunteers who made the event a success even if the weather did all it could to dampen attendance.
Other stops on this year's tour included the Sunset Inn Bed and Breakfast, Town Commissioner Christie Adams' Selma Road home, a handful of homes on South Main Street, the Cypress Street home of Bruce and Marjorie Lynch, which won architectural awards after it was renovated and the Chamber of Commerce, where Farmer's Market vendors displayed their goods.
The event is a fundraiser for the Wendell Historical Society, which works to preserve the town's history and uses the money to provide programs such as the town's annual Fourth of July activities and informative sessions on the town's history.