Christmas at Grand Oaks a holiday showplace
by Marie Nesmith
Nov 16, 2011 | 2269 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Nelda Lewis used the painting of the cotton fields as the inspiration for decorating the tree in the Grand Oaks art gallery. 
SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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As a floral designer at Grand Oaks, Nelda Lewis is busy turning the Greek revival residence into a holiday showpiece.

With the special-events venue hosting Christmas at Grand Oaks for more than 20 years, it always is a fun challenge for Lewis and her fellow decorators to unveil new designs to the public. In preparation of Sunday's gathering, Grand Oaks -- 302 W. Main St. in Cartersville -- is being adorned with ribbons and greenery, along with Christmas trees embellished with more than 12,000 lights and thousands of ornaments.

"We start making preliminary plans the first of September for different ideas that we want to toss around. We try to change things up a bit from year to year," said Lewis, who is working alongside Richard Hunt and Grand Oaks' owner, Ray Thacker, to transform the venue into a winter wonderland. "So we discuss if we put a tree here last year, are we going to move it to a different spot this year to showcase it differently? We shop for new decorations and ideas that give us some inspiration.

"Generally speaking, I work here at Ray's house. I am inspired by the things that he loves that surround him in this house. If you've ever been in here, there are so many eclectic things. There are beautiful things, antique things, but they're also some quirky things and I like to play off of different aspects of Ray's sense of style when I decorate."

On Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m., a $10 contribution will enable each participant to tour Grand Oaks and partake in refreshments and musical performances. With each of the home's rooms featuring a different themed Christmas tree, ornaments range from formal to whimsical. One of Lewis' greatest sources of inspiration this year came from a Buck Jones painting in Lewis' collection.

"Ray purchased a new picture this year, a painting, and I was actually inspired to do a tree in the art gallery from that painting. It was a mixture of not only colors but feeling, she said. "It's a lady in the cotton field and the cotton almost looks like snow but her dress is just a vibrant turquoise. ... I pulled the turquoise color from her dress in with fabric and then went back and [there is] a bronzy sunrise and I brought the bronze in from that color. The textures of the cotton, I did with some of the ornaments and just the texture of the tree to replicate that painting."

Proceeds from the open house will help fund a scholarship that Thacker and his siblings formed in memory of their parents, Hubert and Eva. Administered by the Etowah Scholarship Foundation, the memorial scholarship has annually awarded funds to two recipients who have needed financial assistance since the late 1980s.

"I am passionate about [education] because it goes back to my childhood because I was the last of eight," Thacker said. "We were sharecroppers and when I came home from school there wasn't time for [studying] because wood had to be chopped, water had to be carried because we didn't have electricity or any of the amenities that we have today. So therefore I was not able to get a good education. I started college. I went to Reinhardt College and I knew in six months I wasn't college material.

"So out of eight children, there was only one brother that got a college education. And now I've kind of changed my mind that college is not so important but I think furthering an education in some sort [is]. Like I went into hairdressing and floristry and I trained in a shop but then I also went to a florist school at Coosa Tech for the floral design ... So education [is important], and it doesn't have to be a school education, it's just being able to be exposed and that's what we're trying to do with the house and that's what I did with my beauty salon -- trying to expose people that would never get to see something like this."

For more information about Christmas at Grand Oaks, call 770-382-6322.