Deck the halls with tons of trees
Home tour schedule
Holiday Christmas tours at 103 N. Chatham St., Janesville, benefit the Rock County Humane Society. Donations are accepted but not requested and can include cash or donations for animals, such as canned dog food and cat food. Cash is preferred.
Remaining tour times are:
-- 5-7 tonight.
-- 5-7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15.
-- 5-7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22.
-- 5-7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 23.
JANESVILLE Santa has a second home, and it's at 103 N. Chatham St. in Janesville.
Kris Kringle must live somewhere among the many Christmas trees, garlands and bows.
Mike Niemann and Tom Joyce for several years have opened their Queen Anne home to tours. If you go, keep an eye out for the jolly old man. And leave a few coins for the Rock County Humane Society.
The couple figured they spent so much time and effort putting up their stuff that others should enjoy it, too.
They good-naturedly admit they "have a lot of crap."
The house features at least 25 trees over 6 feet. The height distinction must be noted because that doesn't include the many trees of smaller stature.
There's a fruit tree, a bird tree, a peacock tree and an upside-down tree. They are decorated with pig lights and horse lights, grape lights and penguin lights.
Garlands loop over the banister and doorways. Tinsel hangs from branches. Cutout decorations cling to windows, and gilded pinecones and ornaments glitter and spin.
There's a snow globe collection, a Santa collection, a snowman collection, an angel collection and certainly enough reindeer to qualify as a collection. There are at least three villages, the largest of which has a musical ice rink, working carousel and fountain. (Don't throw snow into the fountain. It gunks it up.)
A miniature North Pole in the front room was crafted by Tom's dad, David.
Dollhouses and barns with tiny animals are showcased throughout the house. It turns out adults—especially men—like them more than the kids, Joyce said.
The holiday open houses started with family and friends, but Niemann and Joyce started to realize they didn't know half the people who showed up. Apparently, the entire family has a tendency to invite the sales people who check them out in stores.
So, they've skipped invitations and invite anyone. In the past, they found people were tempted to bring something, so now they ask for a donation to the humane society instead.
"I don't need anything," Joyce said.
Those who cannot afford a donation should show up anyway, the men urged.
Some might wonder if the pair actually live in the home during the holiday season. They do.
They remove at least half their furnishings—beds, chairs, sofas, end tables and all their knickknacks—so Christmas can move in. They change out their wall hangings and hide their TV behind a mirror on the mantle.
They begin packing stuff into bins after Halloween. Furniture goes into the attic, a sleeping porch and garage. They own the house next door, and they fill that basement. The renter looks after their plants and trees.
The day after Thanksgiving, Niemann's parents move in for a couple days to help them decorate. That's only fitting because they've hauled much of their stuff to their son's house. Joyce's sister, Jody, stores her Jim Shore collection there, and some of that comes out, as well.
Joyce is picky about his trees, so he does most of that decorating.
"He's very particular," Niemann agreed. "If you do it, it might as well be right."
One tree, for example, has 1,400 lights.
No tree is safe from Joyce's creative streak.
Joyce had horses when he was young and puts his collection of plastic horses among the branches. They are mixed with other horse ornaments, horse lights and the ribbons he won in competition. His saddle is the tree skirt.
Penguin lights illuminate the penguin tree in the bathroom. The penguin shower curtain comes down after the holidays.
Niemann and Joyce have so many decorations that people can expect to see something new on their yearly visits.
"It's ridiculous," Joyce said, looking at Niemann.
"There's a problem," Niemann agreed with a smile. "I want to be alive when all this crap goes to auction."
Last year, the men scheduled open houses over four nights. They figured they had 400 to 500 visitors and raised more than $1,600. The humane society came with a van to pick up the donations.
This year, they added a fifth night.
The most frequent questions they get are: "Where do you put it all?" and "How long does it take to put it up?"
The men even take the doors off upstairs rooms to make viewing easier.
While you're looking, keep an eye out for Santa.