By: Value News | Category: In Our Communities | Issue: November 2011
Ron McVicar (as Santa) with Julian Williams during Belvidere Mansion’s Breakfast With Santa event in 2010. (Photo by Salesha Wilken)
Christmas at the Belvidere fundraiser and gift show is well-known and draws visitors from across state lines. During this event the three-story Victorian mansion, built in 1907, is decorated for the holidays and offers a large variety of gifts and collectibles.
The fundraiser is important, for most of the operating budget for the following year’s monthly expenses and fees are earned during this time. A large group of volunteers is required to make the project run smoothly, and they are proud to have a number of talented and dedicated members who bring it together.
The gift shop is open all year, but during Christmas the entire mansion gets special treatment, with themed trees, decorated mantels and garlands throughout. During Claremore’s Dickens on the Boulevard days in late November, the Belvidere is open in the evening as well so guests can experience the magic of a dozen or more sparkling trees. All of this finery is planned and purchased by volunteers earlier in the year, with many hours spent preparing for the grand opening, “lights on” in early November. The Belvidere is also hosting Breakfast with Santa on Saturday morning of Dickens days, November 19 from 8 to 10 a.m
“This year we are focusing on vintage and retro decor, with many ornaments featuring children, and those little German Glitter houses that are coming back in style,” explains Morgan Williams, chair of the Christmas at the Belvidere fundraiser and manager of the Belvidere Mansion Gift Shop. “We’ll have trees with a theme to suit most anyone’s style – whimsical, masculine, country, traditional, Victorian – and the prices are very competitive. I think people feel good knowing that they are helping out a non-profit, while at the same time they get to enjoy a stress-free experience. The atmosphere is much nicer than any mall or department store. We have a little bit of everything so people can get all their shopping done in one place, plus enjoy a great lunch at the Tea Room.”
During Christmas at the Belvidere, the mansion is splendidly decorated with Christmas trees and other holiday décor.
In 1997, the Belvidere Mansion was only open when a volunteer, like then-president Lois Hawkins, could be there. At that time the Belvidere had a craft show at Christmas, with consignors bringing in products to sell and a wonderful staff of volunteers who brought it all together. Virtually every room was full of items for sale.
Three years later, members Kathy Wilken and Sara Selvy began going to market, establishing vendor contacts, and transforming the gift shop and Christmas experience from a craft show into a business. So many customers asked for a tea room that one was opened in 2005, with Rogers County Historical Society taking over operations in 2008.
In 2010, Kathy assumed full-time management of the Tea Room Restaurant. In failing health, Sara gave over her duties as buyer to Morgan Williams and Cynthia McVicar. The gift shop features a collection of old and new merchandise, a combination of genuine vintage and vintage styles of clothing, jewelry, art and home décor.
Christmas at the Belvidere takes place November 8 through December 23. The mansion is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is by donation, and special group tours can be arranged before or after business hours.