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Experience country living festivities on home tour

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From Enterprise Staff

With a backdrop of bountiful foliage, this year’s homes on MannaFest’s Christmas Tour offer festive displays keyed to country living, family heritage and collectors’ delights.

In the lodge-style home of Susan and Arlon Gesford, pine planks that are perhaps 100 years old and honed cedar cut from the property form the background for their displays of Victorian, rustic and “Santa’s Workshop” trees.

In the home Lee and Darwood Galaway envisioned for retirement, rooms throughout the house carry themes reflecting their lives such as the angel tree room complemented by 35 nativity scenes, the European tree room with remembrances from travel and the Disney tree room.

At Kari and Buddy Parker’s home, visitors can enjoy the rustic feel of nature brought inside to enhance the displays of nutcrackers collected over decades, the Fitz and Floyd Christmas china and Hallmark train ornaments.

At Karen and Bobby Cox’s home, tour goers will find a tree decked out in black and white plaid to coordinate with its room’s décor, a fanciful candy cane tree and a collection of gnomes.

This year’s tour will be from 4-8 p.m. Dec. 4 with van transportation departing from Central Baptist Church as part of the ticket price. For those preferring to use their own vehicles, maps will be available at the church.

Tickets, which are $20 in advance and $25 on tour day, are available at First State, First National and People’s State banks and local merchants including HomeGrown, Good Golly Miss Molly’s and Petalz By Annie.  All proceeds from ticket sales benefit the MannaFest Food Pantry, whose chief mission is to provide food and supplies to individuals in need in Polk Country. 

One unique aspect of this year’s tour is that three of the homes belong to members of the same family, dotting the approximate 1,300 acres of property in the Goodrich area that Susan Gesford’s grandfather bought in the early 1950s. After she and her husband used available timber to build their home on a hill, first her son Buddy Parker and then daughter Karen Cox asked permission to build too.

“Our houses are far enough apart that I may not see them (her children) for a week or two, but they also are close enough if I need them,” Susan Gesford said. “Family lore is the property most likely used to be a cotton plantation.”

Kari Parker and her husband followed the parents’ lead in using harvested wood in construction after a large black walnut tree was felled by a hurricane. They commissioned a Livingston cabinet maker to make cabinets for their home. And their son built two unique light fixtures, one featuring a wagon wheel, deer antlers and mason jars, as well as two barn wood displays.

The Galaways had a cabin on their property aside the Trinity River for about 15 years before they decided to build a more spacious house.

“The cabin was OK for a weekend but not for the ideal retirement home,” Lee Galaway said. “So we tore down the cabin and built our house. Now I can sit and drink coffee on my back porch in the morning while looking at the Trinity.”

Lee Galaway said she and her husband have found many Christmas treasures while traveling such as a Haitian nativity carved in an oil drum lid, an olive wood nativity from Israel and a wooden spoon that came with paprika from Hungary.

But they also have a family history tree displaying ornaments collected as their four children grew up through ornaments celebrating the births of their four grandchildren.

All four homes have nativities, ornaments or other collectibles that reflect family heritage. 

Before or after the tour, guests can view a display of antique or collectible cars in a show outside Central Baptist Church, weather permitting. Light refreshments also will be available at the church.

Special precautions will be taken on this year’s tour due to concerns about the Covid-19 virus. Masks and hand sanitizer will be available for tour goers, and only one 15-person van will stop at a house at the same time. In addition, people will be asked to move through the houses in one direction.

For additional information about the tour or MannaFest’s mission, consult the Website at https://www.mannafestlivingstontexas.org or call the MannaFest office at (936) 327-9555.

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