By B.C. Manion
In a community that treasures its traditions, Lutz is gearing up for its 15th annual Christmas House at the Old Lutz School.
The school and its grounds are decked out in seasonal lights, giant plywood holiday cards, inflatables, super-sized candy canes, a Nativity scene, wreaths and other décor.
The goal is to spread good cheer throughout the holidays, said Phyllis Hoedt, who co-chairs the Citizens for the Old Lutz School, which maintains the historic schoolhouse at 18819 N. US 41.
Celebrations planned for this year include old-fashioned carols, a “Breakfast with Santa,” and tours of the school, which has been transformed into a Christmas House.
Everyone is welcome to tour the Christmas House at no charge, but donations are welcome and they are used to support the upkeep of the school, which was built in 1927 and deemed a historic landmark in 1996.
Donations of nonperishable food items and toys also are being accepted to benefit needy families.
The house opens for tours on Tuesday, Dec. 6, from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. and will be open on numerous nights throughout the season.
Inside the house, visitors will be able to see decorated trees, including one that’s dressed up with with butterflies.
Train aficionados will have a chance to see some miniature sets and nutcracker lovers can enjoy a large collection of the painted wooden figures.
The Santa breakfast is scheduled for 8:30 to 11 a.m. on Saturday. There will be a $3.50 charge for breakfast, and children also will be able to do four crafts, Hoedt said.
“We try to keep it real reasonable,” she said. In addition to breakfast, there’s a Santa store where folks can do some holiday shopping.
The annual celebration started small, but has evolved over the years to become a popular attraction, Hoedt said.
Friends and neighbors often run into each other as they tour the house or enjoy the music, she said. In many ways, each night feels like a mini-reunion, she added.
“It puts you in the Christmas spirit, to come and talk and visit,” Hoedt said.
Many of the displays at the school are too large to show off in an individual’s home, so their owners set them up at the school to share with the community, she said.
Terri Burgess, a volunteer helping to set up the Christmas House, said she pitches in because she respects the annual efforts made on the project by Hoedt and volunteer Bill Westcott, commander of the North Tampa/Lutz Cadet Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol.
“It’s the heart that they have that goes into it,” said Burgess, a second-grade teacher at Lutz Elementary.
Lili Fox, a volunteer with the Civil Air Patrol, has spent roughly 20 hours helping to put up the holiday displays. She’s pounded in stakes, strung lights and helped touch up the giant Christmas cards.
“Just seeing the faces of the kids when they come in from the elementary school – just seeing their faces light up, it makes it all worthwhile,” Fox said.
Westcott, who has been pitching in for more than a decade, gets a sense of satisfaction from being involved. “I love it,” he said.
The Christmas House will be open for tours from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on Dec. 6, Dec. 8, Dec. 10, Dec. 11, Dec. 15, Dec. 17, Dec. 20, Dec. 22, Dec. 26 and Dec. 27.
Various groups will be providing musical entertainment on evenings throughout the season.
Here’s the lineup for the evening musical performances:
–Tuesday, Dec. 6: Stan Bozek
–Thursday, Dec. 8: Harvester United Methodist Church
–Saturday, Dec. 10: Friendship Singers
–Sunday, Dec. 11: Christina Hundley
–Thursday, Dec. 15: Lutz Elementary
–Saturday, Dec. 17: Cornerstone Presbyterian Church
–Sunday, Dec. 18: CrossPointe Church
–Tuesday, Dec. 20: Cross County Country Music
–Thursday, Dec. 22: Tierra del Sol Girl Scouts
If you enjoy playing music, singing alone or with a group of friends, you are invited to contact William Westcott to see if time slots remain. He can be reached at (813) 930-9454 or (813) 601-0874 or by e-mail at .
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