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Agawam, Westfield, West Springfield Garden Clubs deck the halls

Date: 12/11/2015

WEST SPRINGFIELD – Garden clubs and florists from around the area have been consulting their history books for this year’s Yuletide Open House tours at Storrowton Village.

The Yuletide celebrations allow each organization to claim a space in the historic buildings to decorate for the season.

The Agawam Garden Club was tasked with decorating a room in the Gilbert House. Kathy Norris said she and her fellow club members decided to incorporate white pumpkins, acorns, berries and sumac to create a festive environment. One member also crafted acorn trees, decorative birds out of milkweed pods, burlap roses and artichoke roses.

Norris said one of the challenges of the Yuletide Open House is making sure the elements stayed true to the historic nature of the home.

“This house was a farm family home, so they wouldn’t have been able to have imported things. We had to look up whether they would have been able to grow artichokes or not, and artichokes were growing in New England then,” Norris said with a laugh. “That was kind of our thinking. What would the family living in this home be doing?”

The Agawam Garden Club has been participating for years, and Norris said she loves to watch the creative minds in the organization work to create something new every time.

The chance to escape back in time makes Yuletide special, she said.

“I think that’s what’s fun about this,” Norris said. “It brings everyone back before E-everything and reminds people how things used to be done.”

The West Springfield Garden Club chose to turn the schoolhouse into a celebration of Mark Twain’s work, including a white washed fence at the entrance as a tribute to Tom Sawyer.

The chalkboard that wraps around the room has Mark Twain quotes written and a map of the Mississippi River, as well as sunflowers.

President of the organization Charlotte Pasquerella said while many groups choose a seasonal theme for their decorations, her club was inspired by last year’s schoolhouse, which was based on “Little Women.” With that and because many members of the West Springfield Garden Club are former teachers, things fell into place.

“It’s a teachable moment. Inside every teacher, you never stop being a teacher. You want to you use your time to teach,” she said. “You put a garden club and a bunch of teachers together, and you end up with that.”

Pasquerella said she hoped that when families walked through the schoolhouse, a conversation is ignited about literature.

The Westfield Woman’s Garden Club, which is under the umbrella of the Westfield Woman’s Club, decorated the parlor of the Potter Mansion. Sandi Gil, the event’s chairperson, said her club used greens, white pines, red berries and hollies to create an authentically festive room.

“What we tried to do was decorate it to look elegant for the time,” she said. “We’re talking 1700s, so people in that time used natural things so that’s what we tried to do rather than going out and getting something that’s plastic.”

This dedication included crafting by hand ornaments for a Christmas tree.

Gil, who has been taking part for nearly seven years, said her favorite part about Yuletide is the challenge of creating something unique year after year.

“You don’t want to copy what someone’s done before you, yet you want to make it look like the period and make it look nice,” she said. “We keep improving because we keep learning about some of the natural kinds of things that can be utilized in decoration.”

For these organizations, the chance to participate in Yuletide is more than just showing off what they can do with a flower arrangement. It is a way to get creative in festivities and to show people who visit new ways to decorate

 “The Yuletide event contributes to the experience of the season by showing that one’s home can be beautifully decorated for the holidays without spending a penny, using natural materials found outside our doors,” Norris said.”

For some, it also helps create a new meaning for the holiday season.    

“When you’re a kid, Christmas is about gifts, but there comes a point where Christmas isn’t wrapped up anymore. Every one of us has something special that lights us up,” Pasquerella said. “I’ve been told by my members that part of Christmas for them is being able to do this.”

The Yuletide Open House runs through Dec. 12, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.