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Monday, April 22, 2024
Rotary’s Holiday House Tour raises $120,000 for charity

Fundraising may be returning to normal as more than 3,100 people bought tickets for the Rotary Club's Holiday House Tour over the weekend.

“It should make, all for charity, about $120,000,” said Niagara-on-the-Lake Rotary Club member Jamie Knight.

Pre-COVID, in 2019, the tour raised $130,000.

Hitting $120,000 this year is a sign that fundraising and life for Rotarians is getting closer to normal, Knight said.

“We’re getting back into the swing of things. This is an annual event and it’s the cornerstone of what Rotary does here in Niagara-on-the-Lake,” he said.

All in, the holiday tour is the single biggest fundraising event the club hosts throughout the year, Lord Mayor Betty Disero said as she worked the front gate at the McArthur estate on John Street East, the last destination for many enjoying the tour.

The event was organized last year but pandemic restrictions forced its cancellation less than five days before it was scheduled to happen, said Fran Boot, one of the organizers.

“It was really painful. I almost had to go for therapy after,” Boot joked.

“It’s not just a fundraiser for me. It’s all about the community getting together,” she said.

More than 140 volunteers were manning seven homes across NOTL, ensuring the lines didn’t get too long and that everyone was sure to wear a mask and take off their shoes when entering a home, Boot said.

Boot thanked Brenda and Blair McArthur for making their home the centrepiece of the Holiday House Tour for the last several years.

Touring the McArthur estate is a little more intimate than the rest of the homes on the tour, Boot said.

Intimacy “wouldn’t be possible at one of the seven houses because they have 3,000 people coming through in two days,” she said.

Touring the seven houses around NOTL was a free-for-all, with ticket holders showing up anytime between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. at any of the homes.

Tours of the McArthur property required a separate ticket and people had to book a specific time slot in advance.

“Because we’re limited with COVID, maximum 100 people on the property and 25 in the house, we had to do it this way,” Boot said.

The staggered starts for the McArthur estate proved popular as they enabled people to stay on the property for a little longer and not feel rushed by a large line of people behind them.

In fact, it might be the new norm for the tour, she said.

After being led through a guided tour of the estates grounds, everyone stopped outside of the house to see a special performance by kids from the Yellow Door Theatre Project. Other groups, including the Bethany Mennonite Church bell choir, also entertained.

With Yellow Door, some 12 little thespians performed Christmas classics and Disney songs, treating people to energetic renditions of "Hakuna Matata," "Winter Wonderland," "Fathoms Below" from "The Little Mermaid" and others.

For $40 for adults and $10 for children, families were able to spend this past Friday and Saturday visiting homes expertly decorated for the holidays.

“We’ve come down to appreciate the lovely decorations and enjoy the house tour,” Toronto resident Heather McVeigh said outside a home on Simcoe Street.

McVeigh and her family got into NOTL on Saturday morning to soak up some holiday spirit.

While excited for a weekend of wineries and holiday cheer, McVeigh said she was disappointed she missed the Candlelight Stroll on Friday night.

“It’s noted for next year,” she said. “This is our first time down in Niagara-on-the-Lake for the holidays.”

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