Decorations Are Sprouting Up Everywhere – Local Garden Clubs Pitch In to Bedeck Shawnee Lodge
Just say the words “Garden Club” and most of us instantly get a picture of ladies wearing floppy straw hats and heavy gloves, using trowels to dig in the earth. But when the ladies (and coincidentally, men, too) of eight southeastern Ohio garden clubs descend on the lodge of Shawnee State Resort Lodge and Conference Center in West Portsmouth, Ohio, this November, they won’t be armed with digging tools, but rather, hot glue guns, wire, spools of ribbon and nearly 26,000 lights as they work to transform two floors of space into a Christmas wonderland. They’ve volunteered to deck out the lodge in its best holiday finery for the past 20 years for two simple reasons – they love Christmas and they love their community.
“The first few hours can be a bit harry-scary, but it calms down and the serious work gets under way,” said Linda Warfield, who has been a member of the Portsmouth Garden Club since 1995 and a past organizer of the event. “It’s such a beautiful location for Christmas business parties and family reunions. Making it even more beautiful is our way of giving back to the community.”
The idea for the garden clubs to take on the holiday decorating came about some two decades ago, after gardeners from four or five clubs joined forces to landscape the barren exterior of the lodge. They did such a good job, lodge managers asked them to bring their talents indoor as well. Their initial Christmas decorating budget was $200, and at that time, they used live trees. Little did they know that their endeavor would “blossom” into an annual event.
Now, the approximately 75 decorators have become so adept they can finish up to 40 trees, the front entrance, the lobby, and restaurant practically in a single day. For the past two years, students from several local schools including Clay, Portsmouth, Portsmouth West, Minford and New Boston have pitched in. The students have been particularly helpful toting boxes and climbing up and down ladders, which can be tough for some older club members. Garden club members from Waverly and Prime Time in Pike County also have lent their assistance.
“I come back every year to help out,” said Rita Connell, who has been making the trip from Beaver Creek, Ohio, for 11 years now. “I just love it, and it helps promote our wonderful lodge.” Connell delights in the fact that hundreds of guests will have the opportunity to enjoy the decorations, absolutely free of charge.
Each of the eight Scioto County garden clubs, which include Green Triangle, Lucasville, Minford, Portsmouth, Slocum, Wheelersburg, Willow and Double Delight, are responsible for a designated area of the lodge, with one club acting as the host/overall organizer of the event. Each club decides what theme and what type of décor to utilize. General Manager Bill Griffin has only one rule – the decorations should have a natural lodge-type feel, no “brassy or glassy.” And, club members have done just that – utilizing everything from pinecones to hornets’ nests to make their decorations.
“They are so talented and do such an outstanding job,” Griffin said. “I can’t speak highly enough of them.” Griffin, who previously worked at the 600-room lodge in Yellowstone National Park, is especially impressed with the clubs’ dedication and their resourcefulness in coming up with their décor. “Every year, it totally blows my mind; it’s always something different.”
The lodge pays for the basics and stores the decorations, but each club is responsible for fundraising to provide for the extras needed for their displays. It’s not uncommon to catch members at after-holiday sales or taking a critical look at things right in their own backyards and pantries to make ornaments.
“You might see a pod or a seed or a piece of bark, and think, ‘I can make something out of that,’” said Teresa Book of the Slocum Garden Club, which is the 2010 and 2011 hosting club.
Themes for the various displays range from Noah’s Ark to fishing to angels. The group is particularly proud of its red, white and blue Veterans Tree and encourages area residents to submit photos of family members who are veterans to hang on the tree. Some trees are crowd favorites and are used year after year, while others are entirely new. The clubs make sure that each tree is picture perfect, particularly, given the fact the entire lodge display will be entered to be judged as a temporary flower show through the Ohio Association of Garden Shows, Inc. Being judged not only shows off their work, but also helps the groups educate the community about garden clubs and encourages new membership.
“We would love to have new members,” Warfield added. “It’s a great hobby and good therapy.”
If you would like to help with the holiday decorating or for more information regarding the garden club in your Ohio community, call Warfield at 740.353.4831.
If You Go:
The decorations go up in mid-November with an official open house complete with refreshments and musical entertainment the second Sunday in December. Decorations are taken down the first Monday in January. Admission is free.
For more information or directions to Shawnee Lodge and Conference Center, call 740.858.6621 or visit www.shawneestateparklodge.com.