Area garden clubs join forces to create Winter Wonderland

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Garden clubs across southwest Ohio joined forces to transform Hueston Woods Lodge and Conference Center into a winter wonderland.

“We wanted to enhance the guest experience for the holiday season,” said Scott Brothers, human resources manager for Hueston Woods near Oxford, of the lodge’s decision to contact the Ohio Association of Garden Clubs, Inc. for help. “(The garden club members) volunteered their own time to help make this a winter wonderland. The lodge looks amazing. We never expected the outcome that the clubs achieved. We have had many compliments about the decorations.”

Vicki Ferguson, OAGC past president, Here and There Garden Club member and Washington Twp. resident, said she was confident garden clubs in the Dayton-Cincinnati region could accomplish the beautification project. Sixty-five members from 12 OAGC clubs from Butler, Clermont, Darke, Greene, Hamilton, Montgomery and Warren counties worked together to create the holiday display.

Inspiration came from decorations at Shawnee State Park that have been coordinated by OAGC garden clubs in Scioto County for more than 20 years and have become a holiday tourist destination.

A committee of six local women – including OAGC Regional Directors Barb Miller (Darke, Preble and Montgomery counties) and Joyce Sullivan (Brown, Butler, Clermont and Hamilton counties) – visited Scioto County garden club members at Shawnee’s Lodge in November 2013 and then formulated a plan for the Hueston Woods Lodge.

Committee member Jan Vomacka of New Neighbors Garden Club in Springboro had experience with venue holiday decorating and was key in designing and implementing the Hueston Woods winter wonderland.

“The planning process involved taking lots of pictures, taking detailed measurements and looking at the big picture in developing an overall plan. … We took into consideration space requirements and limitations, safety restrictions and maintainability from year to year. The end goal was to create a cohesive design within each area with complementary transitions from one area to the next,” said Vomacka, noting that the master plan includes future projects to be implemented over several years.

“It is a lot of work, but we have lots of garden club members helping to complete the transition to a winter wonderland. When it is all done, there is a great sense of accomplishment, and we hope that all visitors to the lodge enjoy the result.”

Guests entering the main lobby are greeted by a 6-foot wreath hanging from the stone feature wall rising above the circular staircase. Lighted woodland scenes adorn the canopies overlooking the Fireside Room.

“The lodge is decked with nearly 30 trees of various sizes – one is 12 feet tall – a 6-foot wide wreath, yards and yards of lighted garland and much more,” Miller said. “The highlight of the Trailblazer Dining Hall is a 30-foot mantel featuring six lighted trees, a 14-foot tall ribbon ‘tree’ and lighted garland. As pretty as the lodge is during the day, its true sparkle comes out at night.”

The decorating project allowed club members to build relationships and give back to their community.

“It is who we are that brings us together. Hueston Woods is part of our community and region. So it’s our way of giving back and contributing,” Sullivan said. “I enjoy meeting other members of the different clubs. You don’t always get to see them on a regular basis. Doing the decorating is hard work but after it’s done and you look at the results you feel good all over.”

According to Ferguson, club members will return in January to take down and store decorations.

“Many garden clubs are already very active in their communities,” she said. “The Hueston Woods Winter Wonderland project is great way to spotlight the enthusiasm of our OAGC members and friends who have passion for gardening. Today’s garden club members are doers; they aren’t sitting around drinking tea and eating bon-bons.”

Read the article by Lisa Knodel on Dayton Daily News.

(Photo: Hueston Woods- Members of the Des Fleurs Garden Club in Oxford, from left to right, Kim Peterka, Deb Steger and Joan Fryba decorated the snowman tree.)

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