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Chit Chat: Geneva House Tour a holiday tradition

GENEVA – Donna Neiler of LaFox says she’s looking forward to kicking off the Christmas season with one of her favorite traditions – attending the Geneva House Tour.

This will be the 33rd year she has attended the event, and she usually has a few friends in tow. She said she attended her first Geneva House Tour in 1981, which since has led her to attend other house tours throughout the country and even overseas. But Geneva’s tour always has been her favorite, she said, especially when it comes to the holiday decorations.

“They’ve done it to the nines,” she said. “It really kind of kicks off the holiday season for a lot of people.”

Five homes will be featured in this year’s Geneva House Tour, which is a self-guided tour that goes from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6, and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7.

Homes along the tour include an 1868 Victorian built by actor and inventor John Bowman Atwater, which features a three-story octagonal wing.

Various local businesses, including The Little Traveler, CIRCA and The Mossy Twig, helped decorate the homes this year.

Neiler said she prefers to attend the house tour on Fridays, and she and a group of friends will make a day of it. She said one friend travels from downstate Illinois while another travels from Chicago to attend the house tour. They gather at Neiler’s home, eat cookies, have beverages and then plot out the order of homes they plan to visit. They visit a few homes before lunch, which is usually at Chianti’s in Geneva.

She said in the last 32 years, there have been several homes that have resonated with her – usually the older homes.

“There’s some fantastic architecture in this area – a big diversity of periods,” she said. “I remember almost every one distinctively. There’s always something striking in every home.”

Neiler said it’s difficult to choose just one favorite, but she loves to see all the homeowners’ personal touches each year.

“You appreciate the effort someone puts into it,” she said. “To pick a favorite is tough.”

She said when she started going on the Geneva House Tour in 1981, the house tour initially was organized by the Geneva Garden Club. She said even after the Geneva Chamber of Commerce started organizing it, the house tour has stayed very much the same through the years.

She said house walkers should dress for the weather and prepare to wait in some long lines to tour the homes.

“One year, it was so cold. Another year, we were in light jackets,” she said. “We’ve trudged our way through snow. Most times, Mother Nature’s not too bad, but I always have extra gloves.”

Geneva House Tour tickets are $30 and include a holiday tea. Proceeds are used to decorate the city of Geneva for the holiday season. Tickets can be purchased at the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, 8 S. Third St., or at 14 other locations in Geneva, including the Geneva History Center, 113 S. Third St.; bb Interiors, 600 S. First St.; and Gibby’s Wine Den, 1772 S. Randall Road.

Tickets also can be purchased by calling 630-232-6060.

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