Home for the Holidays

Published 10:21 am Tuesday, December 16, 2008

MURFREESBORO — People of all ages came here seeking Christmas memories of their own.

With candles lighting their way, visitors hailing from all over the area filled the streets last Thursday and Friday as they participated in the 23rd annual Candlelight Christmas Tour.

Hosted by the Murfreesboro Historical Association (MHA), the Candlelight Christmas Tour guided its participants throughout the town’s historic district. The progressive dinner tour featured 12 historical sites to explore and homemade hor d’ourves to sample at each stop.

MHA President John Woodard said this year’s theme was “Christmas Memories” and each site’s interpretation of the theme was left up to the volunteers. He noted most of the sites referenced time periods.

“We try to change it…we do change it every year,” he said about the theme.

Woodard said the event’s yearly themes are a result of brainstorming sessions held by MHA volunteers. Next year’s theme is always revealed at Hertford Academy, the final stop of the tour (2009’s theme will be “Small Town Magic”).

Despite the rainy night Thursday, those who had purchased tickets braved the wet weather to take part in the tour.

“We had a jolly crowd last night,” said Jane Knight, a volunteer at the Gift Shop located in historic Murfree-Smith Law Office.

Woodard said the groups on Thursday night made light of the rain by singing Christmas songs.

Woodard said each night’s tour was nearly sold out. The capacity for each tour is 500 people. Woodard added 185 volunteers were involved in the two-night event.

Armed with directions on the back of their tickets, tour-goers made their first two stops of the evening at the Roberts-Vaughan House located in Main Street and nearby Chowan University.

The tour continued with sites in the heart of the historic district, including the Murfree-Smith Law Office which is now a Gift Shop, the Agriculture and Transportation Museum, the William Rea Museum, the Evans Tinsmith Shop, the Vincent-Deale Blacksmith Shop, the Winborne Country Store and the Wheeler House.

A new stop featured on the tour was an 1815 private home owned by Steve and Sandra Fowler. Visitors were then taken via horse and wagon or tram to the Murfree Center where they were served a sit-down dinner. The guests then relaxed at the Hertford Academy building, where an array of desserts and coffee was offered.

While there were many newcomers from outside of the Roanoke-Chowan area who came to explore what the tour had to offer, several local visitors came to see what they had been missing.

Rick and Audrey Hurst of Littleton ventured out on the tour for the very first time.

The Hurstes said they enjoyed their time on the tour and decided to participate because they love history.

“I actually heard (about) it on the radio, they were interviewing a Historical Association member,” said Mrs. Hurst. “It sounded really nice. …I’m familiar with the little town (Mufreesboro), but I’ve never been on the tour.”

While the majority of adults enjoyed their time on the Candlelight Christmas tour, it was perhaps the handful of children who attended who showed the most enthusiasm for the tour.

Whether it was a light rub on the nose of a Clydesdale horse, watching a small toy train maneuver on its tracks or the clapping along with Christmas tunes, children on the tour seemed to convey the holiday spirit.

One child in particular, Landon Woodard, who will soon celebrate his first birthday, entertained the crowd at the Hertford Academy as he listened to music by Chowan University’s Dr. Christopher White and Frank Harris.

Keeping his eyes glued to Harris as the musician played the clarinet; the blond haired, blue-eyed baby clapped his hands and swayed to the music on the floor at his parents’ feet. This prompted a reaction from the crowd who encouraged Landon, the son of Rob and Kristin Woodard, by clapping along.

Seemingly not being able to get enough of the performance, Landon crawled to position himself closer to Harris.

Musician Laura Boosinger of Asheville, who performed at the Vincent-Deale Blacksmith Shop, was impressed with what a small town can offer in the form of history and a Christmas tour.

“I think it’s fabulous,” she said. “It’s amazing.”