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Holiday decorations are reminder of home

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Kayla Bunge
December 14, 2009
— At one moment, two mice busily transform an ordinary blue dress into an exquisite white ball gown.

And at another, Cinderella meets Prince Charming at the ball, but only for a short while; her sparkling horse-drawn carriage awaits her departure before the stroke of midnight and before the spell wears off.


The elaborate re-creation of the classic fairy tale is among several such displays that are part of Christmas in the Country at Grand Geneva Resort.


The six-week celebration of lights and holiday spirit started as a way to breathe life into the resort during an otherwise quiet time, but the celebration has transformed into so much more than a marketing tool, said Courtney Nobilio, marketing manager.


“It just adds something else to the holiday,” she said.


Christmas in the Country, which now is in its 15th year, has become a tradition for many area families, Nobilio said. Some people plan a weekend to stay at the resort and have brunch with Santa Claus while others stop by in the evening to drive and walk through the resort and take pictures, she said.


Visitors to the resort will see almost a million lights twinkling throughout the property, from the tree in the main lobby to the storybook displays on the first and second floors to the decorations along the main road into the resort.


Christmas in the Country this year celebrates the comforts of home with the theme “No Place Like Home for the Holidays,” said Kristi Johnson, artistic director and head decorator.


“We took the classic fairy tale characters and have them coming home for Christmas,” she said. “We wanted something warm and comforting, rather than something too New York City, too shopping center-like.”


One display shows Snow White and the seven dwarves at home, the dwarves in their small house and Snow White outside, engaging nature. Another display shows Dorothy and friends making their way down the yellow brick road to the Emerald City with hopes of finding a way home. And still another display shows Alice in Wonderland taking a dose of magical elixir that will transport her home.


Johnson and a crew of about a half-dozen people—including her parents—have been planning this year’s decorations and displays since they took down last year’s decorations.


The group settles on a theme in the summer, and Johnson and her helpers work on the displays throughout the fall, collecting old and new items, constructing set pieces and planning the design. They put up the decorations during the three weeks between Halloween and Thanksgiving.


Grand Geneva encourages people to come and see the holiday décor, whether they stay the night or just stop by, Nobilio said.


“This really is something not only for our guests, but also for the community,” she said.


Grand Geneva putting best foot forward to weather economic storm

Grand Geneva Resort has taken calculated steps to ensure the resort has its “best foot forward” when the nation emerges from the economic storm.


The resort had a multimillion-dollar facelift, improved its regional marketing and put together package deals for couples and families looking for a vacation close to home, said Amy Idsvoog, director sales and marketing at Grand Geneva.


“We definitely felt (the economic downturn) like everybody else did, and we looked at cost-saving measures, but we also looked at ways to be proactive,” she said.


The outdoor pool now is larger. The spa has a more relaxing environment. Hotel rooms now have an updated look.


Billboard, television and radio advertisements tout the varied offerings at the resort and target people from southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois, the “bread and butter” of the resort, Idsvoog said.


The resort has activities and attractions for kids and families, for couples and corporate groups—from skiing or snowboarding in the winter to golfing and riding water slides in the summer.


“It allows the whole family to be able to get something out of (their vacation),” Idsvoog said. “It really has helped us capture people, and it allows them to think they’re not giving up a dream vacation.”


CHRISTMAS IN THE COUNTRY
For a complete list of Christmas in the Country events, go to www.grandgeneva.com/christmas-in-the-country.asp. Here are some highlights:

-- “Hooray for Holidays:” This 90-minute show features spectacular costumes, choreography and music. The show this year is celebrating its 10th anniversary. For show times and ticket information, call 1-800-558-3417.


-- “Jingle Bell Jazz:” A six-piece band celebrates the season with smooth sounds at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday in the lobby lounge.


-- “Tom’s Holiday Song-Fest:” Children can sing along and play instruments with area musician Tom Stanfield from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturdays.


-- Brunch with Santa: Santa and Mrs. Claus visit with guests during Sunday champagne brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays at the Geneva ChopHouse.


-- Holiday tea: A traditional tea will be served from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. daily in the lobby lounge.


-- Gingerbread house display: Visitors can see gingerbread dwellings created by area amateur and professional artists.



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