The gala is free and open to the public.
It's Christmastime in the city.
The Casements Guild has been hard at work preparing the historic Ormond Beach home for its 43rd-annual Christmas Gala, to be held this Friday, Dec. 3, through Sunday, Dec. 5. It's an event the Guild spends months planning for, and 2021 marks the return of holiday traditions as last year's gala activities were limited due to COVID-19.
To be able to hold an in-person event again is wonderful, said Lee Tisdale, publicity chair for The Casements Guild.
"This is something that we all look forward to," she said. "Most of this is stuff I bought, literally, two years ago.”
Guild members and volunteers began decorating the house last week, but were in full force to get the job done on Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 29 and 30. This year's gala theme is "The Jewel of Ormond Beach,” and it is carried by the jewel-toned ornaments and decorations adorning the various wreaths inside and outside of the house. Member began making wreaths back in September, Tisdale among them. Her husband calls her sun room the "glitter room" from September to December, she shared with a chuckle.
“It’s a months-long endeavor," Tisdale said. "It all culminates on this one weekend but what people forget is the whole house is decorated for the whole month.”
Celebrations will begin with a tree lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Gardens, located at 26 Riverside Dr., at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3. There will be carols, and a special visit by Santa and the Snow Queen. Free train rides, face painting and cookie decoration will be available, as well as food trucks and the guild's gourmet shop. Crafts will also be available for purchase.
Staying a step ahead of the guild
City staff, per usual, continues to help the guild in any way they can to prepare for the gala, said Siobhan Daly, cultural center coordinator for The Casements.
"My motto is to always stay a step ahead of the guild," she said. "They’re a force to reckon with.”
One of the challenges this year was placing the Christmas tree inside the atrium. That was a full-staff effort, Daly said. They had to get one of the largest ladders available in the city, and because this year they experimented with decorating the top of the tree before placing it, city staff had to hoist the 15-foot tree from the third floor — already clad with glass ornaments — and carefully lower it down to the first floor.
“It’s tall,” Daly said as she laughed. “And you know, we’d like it taller. However, it poses a challenge.”
'Clicking along' better than ever
Though Tisdale and the other guild members missed giving in-person tours at The Casements during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the house was closed, it did provide time to do necessary upgrades and renovations. One such project was the 400-feet extension of the Carriage House that allowed the guild more storage, a $195,000 project mainly financed through guild donations.
“People are very, very generous to us in their wills," Tisdale said. "They’re financially generous, they leave us beautiful pieces of furniture — we can’t say enough about that because it really makes a huge difference.”
With 8 new guild members, called docents, added this year, Tisdale said the guild is "clicking along" better than ever.
Whether or not the gala would be able to happen this year was unknown for many months due to the ongoing pandemic. Daly said ultimately, they decided to move forward with the plans knowing that things could change at the last minute. With the gala days away, she's hoping the community comes out to the free event.
"I’ve heard people say it’s like a Hallmark movie, you know with the lights and the weather is supposed to be good," Daly said. "We’re hoping that people will come out with their families and make some memories with us and just enjoy what Ormond Beach has to offer.”