More than 3,000 people may be disappointed this holiday season with the cancellation of the Rotary Holiday House Tours – but the Rotary Club of Niagara-on-the-Lake won’t let the absence of one of its biggest fundraiser slow it down.
This year, the service club is thinking outside the box to plan pandemic-friendly fundraisers in lieu of the much-anticipated holiday events.
Brenda McArthur of the McArthur Estate approached the club with an idea to host guided tours of her garden, said Lorna Penman, chair of the Rotary’s Holiday House Tour committee.
The McArthur Estate on John Street, once owned by artist Trisha Romance and depicted in several of her paintings, has been a highlight of the house tours for several years, drawing crowds for a sneak peak into the elegantly decorated mansion and property.
“This will be the fourth year (the McArthurs) have participated, and they have just been absolutely amazing,” Penman said. “(Brenda) approached us and said she felt really bad because we had to cancel the tour, and would we like to have her garden for an evening stroll. Obviously we ran with it.”
The Enchanted Wonderland Stroll will take place on Friday, Dec. 4 and Saturday, Dec. 5.
The outdoor event will follow COVID-19 guidelines, including keeping family social bubbles together and spacing out tour groups, requiring all visitors to wear masks while on the property and providing masks and hand sanitizer on-site. There are limited quantities of tickets available, which can be purchased at https://niagaraonthelakerotary.ca/page/holiday-house-tour.
Penman said the Rotary Club sought and confirmed approval from the town before moving forward with the event.
Tickets include a guided tour of the “exquisitely decorated” garden, with seasonal lights and music, sparkling wine or cider provided by Peller Estates, and gingerbread cookies courtesy Bosley Real Estate Brokerage of NOTL.
There will be time slots for families, from 5 to 6 p.m., which will include a visit with Santa, a swag bag and a cookie. Adult time slots will be from 6:15 to 7:15 p.m., and 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Sentineal Carriages will also be available for rides off-site, not included with ticket purchase.
The NOTL Rotary has also teamed up with several area businesses and organizations to offer the Ho Ho Ho! Holiday House Totes. The tote bags are available for purchase now online until Dec. 3. The totes, an $80 retail value, sell for the early-bird rate of $54.99 before Nov. 30, and $59.99 afterward.
Included in the large, reusable bag are quality items sourced from area businesses, such as a full-sized bottle light with decorative star neck-tag from Regal Florist and Garden Centre, an emerald green cedar from Mori Gardens, large caramel-coated kettle popcorn from Rocky Mountain Chocolate, a holiday house decorated cookie from Willow Cakes & Pastries, a glittery gold maple leaf ornament from Just Christmas and one adult admission to the Bird Kingdom in Niagara Falls.
Penman said one of the best items in the bag will be the Ho Ho Passport, which will grant carriers special discounts at select area establishments – available only for those who purchase the tote.
Totes can be bought online at niagaraonthelakerotary.ca for pickup at Regal Florist or Mori Gardens.
The Regal Holiday House Tour Silent Auction will take place from Dec. 4 to Dec. 12, at Regal Florist and Garden Centre. (The store is closed Sundays.)
The selection of upscale items, such as ceramic fountains, a cement fountain, ceramic bird feeder, an arbour, a quilt, a handmade needlepoint, a bed & breakfast gift certificate and more will be up for auction.
“There's a lot of items. We're still getting them but there's going to be at least between 30 to 40 items up for auction,” Penman said.
All items have been “generously donated,” she said. “The community has been stepping up and giving us donations. But more donations would be gratefully received.”