O’Tannenbaum Tour will take attendees down Gingerbread Lane this weekend
BY TINA L. SCOTT
Merrill’s annual O’Tannenbaum Tour is this weekend on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 3, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at St. Stephens Church, 903 E. Second St. in Merrill. This year’s theme is “Gingerbread Lane,” and organizers will transform lower level church space into a magical Christmas wonderland to delight young and old alike. The 25 decorated Christmas trees on display will be raffled off, along with wreaths and gift baskets, as part of the annual 4-H and community fundraiser. Raffles take place at 2:15 p.m. on Sunday, and while winners need not be present to win, they do need to pick up their prizes right away on Sunday afternoon if they aren’t present.
Adult admission is $3, children ages 6-11 are $1, and children age 5 and under are free. Proceeds from admission and raffles go to the Lincoln County 4-H programs and other local non-profit organizations.
Area Christmas tree growers provide the 25 Christmas trees, including Grisa Evergreen, High Ground Tree Farm, Northwoods Evergreen, Smilin’ John’s Tree Farm, Wisconsin Evergreen Co., Jackson’s Prairie River Tree Farm, Kings Evergreen and Wreaths, and Fritz’s Mountain. Other area businesses and organizations then decorate the trees to create the magical tour.
O’Tannenbaum Tour organizers typically reach out to area businesses by letter each year, explaining there are five ways to participate in the Tour. Interested businesses and organizations can choose to: 1) Decorate a tree, from skirt to topper; 2) Create and donate a gift basket; 3) Decorate and donate a wreath; 4) Make a monetary gift to a particular 4-H Club of their choice; or 5) Make a monetary gift to the O’Tannenbaum Tour to use for printing, advertising, and set-up costs. Participating businesses are listed in the booklet for the annual O’Tannenbaum Tour, which shows all of the trees, wreaths, gift baskets, and other items available for raffle during the tour and who sponsored each. Each person receives a copy of the booklet at the beginning of the tour. Businesses, non-profit organizations, and individuals are welcome to participate as sponsors or donors.
Event organizers go all out to create the festive atmosphere of the tour, themselves dressing in evening wear, with the occasional costumed character on hand for the kids. Santa sometimes peeks in for a visit, too.
Musical entertainment adds to the holiday atmosphere. This year entertainment will include the Katz Piano students, juggler John Kilgust, Bob Wigent Zendor Comedy/Magician, CM Singers, Mary Waid, and the Merrill High School Band, and there is room for additional entertainers to get on the schedule, so anyone who wishes to perform or provide entertainment should call Cheryl Buck at 715.297.3424. A piano and music stands are available on site.
Polka Dotted Pie will again provide cookies, and Merrill Distributing will provide complimentary coffee, hot cocoa, and cappuccino during the tour.
Ed and Sharon’s will also offer food for purchase in the Kuck Lounge (main level) of the church building on both Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., for those who would like to grab a bite to eat before or after taking the O’Tannenbaum Tour. Parking is available in the church parking lot to the west of the church.
If you’ve never been before, this is a nice, warm, indoor kick-off to the Christmas season, destined to become a delightful December tradition for all those who are young and young at heart.