‘Tis the season for the Holiday Walk


Courtesy of Shannon O'Berski

Each year, the mansion brings out decorations and artifacts gathered from its archives to display during the annual Holiday Walk Tours. This year’s theme is childhood treasures.

Meadow Brook is decking its halls for the 45th year of its annual Holiday Walk Tours.

Beginning Nov. 25, the tours will run through Dec. 22.

On these self-guided tours, guests can meander through the extravagant rooms of Meadow Brook Hall (MBH), each festively decorated for the holidays.

Tours will be offered every day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the last admittance at 4 p.m. Starting Dec.18, the mansion will stay open until 9 p.m.

This winter, the tour focuses on celebrating the treasures of childhood.

“From home movies of the Dodge-Wilson family ice skating, sledding and riding horses, to stories of Christmas morning traditions at The Great Estate, visitors will be taken back to a time when kids gathered around the radio to hear the latest Lone Ranger adventure,” according to a press release.

Throughout the mansion, people can enjoy the nostalgia of pedal cars and classic children’s toys.

“We want to tie in the Dodge-Wilson family into the exhibit and really tell the story of who they were,” said Shannon O’Berski, director of marketing and community relations for MBH.

Guests will get rare insight into the family’s life with the chance to tour the nursery bathroom, complete with handcrafted Mother Goose-themed tiles.

Along the tour, children can play a game of Mother Goose hide-and-seek, earning a prize if they spot all of the hidden fairy tale characters.

Attendees can follow the path to Knole Cottage to see a storybook vignette of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”

In addition, they can make a trip to Danny’s Cabin and check out Santa’s workshop filled with toys. Kris Kringle himself will be there on Dec. 10 and 17.

O’Berski said the tours have flourished over the years.

“It has changed and grown as the interest in the home has grown,” O’Berski said. “Just as the mission of the mansion has changed, so has the Holiday Walk.”

Madelyn Rzadkowolski, MBH’s on-site curator, said this year’s theme of childhood treasures came naturally.

The concepts are based on what is discovered in the collections of archives left in the mansion, as well as information found from interviewing the Dodge-Wilson family’s living members.

Over time, Rzadkowolski has learned a lot about their history, like that they always spent Christmas at the home.

“Opening presents and toys are some of the treasured practices of the season, so naturally we think of the children who grew up here, and we want to show how they experienced Christmas morning,” she said.

The preparation and execution of decorating can be a yearlong process and is very much a group effort.

Once the theme is developed, the curator begins to decide what items from the collection will be put on exhibit. The operations team also helps to prepare the rooms.

A team of hired decorators then creates a design and color scheme to compliment those items, adding final touches to make MBH’s vision come to life.

“We definitely count on our volunteers to help get everything set before the professionals come in and work their magic,” O’Berski said.

Going along with this theme, MBH will be collecting toys for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign through Dec. 20, bringing joy to children of Oakland County.

As this is the mansion’s 45th year hosting the Holiday Walks, O’Berski discussed the significance of tradition.

“As we grow up, there is something about the holidays that are always magical,” she said. “We want to be a part of people’s experience and memory of the holidays. There’s no place like Meadow Brook to put you in that spirit.”

MBH hosts other special events around the holidays, including the Starlight Stroll on Dec. 15. During this cocktail party, guests can stroll through the hall, enjoying live music, holiday entertainment, dancing, cocktails and a wine raffle. Tickets are $75 per person.

There is also an elegant Holiday Tea on Dec. 13 and 20, where guests will treat themselves to food and drinks in the festive dining room. Tickets are $50 per person.

“The idea is that when people come here, they can come every year and get a different experience,” O’Berski said.

Built between 1926 and 1929, MBH is a National Historic Landmark that is self-supporting and relies on the proceeds from these events to care for the house.

“It’s a fine balance because we need to be able to share it and interpret it for the community in order to operate, but at the same time you also run the risk of damage,” O’Berski said.

Therefore, protective actions are taken. This may mean removing certain items before the Holiday Walk, or only having items like costumes or fashions on display for a short time before being put back in storage.

Oakland University students can attend the Holiday Walk for $5, and OU faculty, staff and alumni will pay $15. Adult tickets are $20 per person and $5 for children 17 and under.

Tickets can be bought online at www.meadowbrookhall.org or at MBH. Reservations for tours are not required. However, they are needed for special events and can be made by calling (248) 364-6252.

Additional information was contributed by Allison Hendrick.