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Nights Before Christmas Tour of Homes

Backuses enjoyed Nights Tour
so much they finally joined

Their own ‘Lanier Addition’ home
will be on this year’s tour

Nights Before Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes

• Dates: Nov. 29-30; Dec. 6-7 in Madison, Ind.
• Tour Times: 5-9 p.m. Fridays;
3-9 p.m. Saturdays
• Tickets: $15 pre-sale through Nov. 15; then $20 after for adults. Children ages 5-12 are $5. Available at the Lanier-Madison Visitors Center, 601 W. First St. and at their website. Tickets also available at The Little Golden Fox, The Primitive Porch, Madison Chamber, German American Bank, Old Tyme Marketplace, Christy’s Candles & Gifts and Jefferson County Historical Society.
• Organizing Sponsor: VisitMadison Inc.
• Information and Tickets: (812) 265-2956 or
1-800-559-2956. www.NightsBeforeChristmas.com

Private Homes and Businesses:
• Strouse Home, 112 W. First St.. (owners: Cary and Julie Strouse)
• Helton Home, 708 W. Main St. (owner: Jan Helton)
• Fox Home, 416 Elm St. (owners: Doug and Cara Fox)
• Hope Cottage, 718 E. Second St. (owners: Charlie and Lisa Ferguson)
• Backus Home, 939 W. Main St. (owners: Pete and Joann Backus)
• White Home, 420 East St. (owners: Dave and Amy White)

Public Sites:
• Lanier Mansion, 511 W. First St.
• St. John’s United Church of Christ, 501 E. Main St.
• Talbot-Hyatt House,
301 W. Second St.
• Masonic Schofield House,
217 W. Second St.
• Jefferson County History Center, 615 W. First St.

Hospitality Sites:
• The Little Golden Fox
602 W. Main St.
• Olde Tyme Marketplace,
801 W. Main St.
• Primitive Porch/Muddy Fork Antiques, 217-219 E. Main St.

• The Great Cookie Caper will be held at the Lanier-Madison Visitors Center from 4-7 p.m. Fridays and 1-7 p.m. Saturdays (while supplies last).

(November 2019) – Madison, Ind., residents Pete and Joann Backus say they have always enjoyed attending the annual Nights Before Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes around the holidays. In fact, they have long considered participating some day as homeowners on the tour.
This year, that dream has come true.
“It’s a family tradition. We have gone every year since it has started, and we have, over the years, decided that one day we wanted to be on it,” Pete Backus said. “It has been a tremendous amount of work involved in it. We started in January with painting and had the rooms and halls redone.”
This year’s tour begins on the weekend of Nov. 29-30 and Dec. 6-7. Tour hours are 5-9 p.m. Fridays and 3-9 p.m. Saturdays. The tour will feature six private homes as well as these public sites: the Talbott-Hyatt House, the Schofield House, Lanier Mansion, the Jefferson County History Center and St. John’s United Church of Christ. There will also be four Hospitality Sites this year: Olde Tyme Marketplace, Little Golden Fox, Muddy Fork Antiques and Primitive Porch.
The Backus home is believed to be the first home built in what is referred to as the Lanier Addition. The home is located at 939 W. Main St. and dates to at least 1840s, maybe earlier. The Backuses, who were born and raised in Madison, have been married for 53 years and have lived in their shotgun home since 1983. The Backus family has been constantly renovating their home to make it what they always imagined it could be, including adding an upstairs with three bedrooms, a new roof, a big open garden and a giant garage.
The Backus home is always decked out for the Christmas holidays, from the outside to almost everything on the inside, including Christmas décor, Christmas trees, a full decorated Christmas village and much more. Joann also paints ceramic Santas and displays them in the kitchen every holiday.
“The first couple of pieces of our village started off underneath the tree; that’s how small it was. I had pieces from my mom, the cardboard houses, but the roof on the garage started leaking and it ruined them, so we started going with these (ceramic pieces) now. The Dolly Madison shop that Mrs. Brown operated up there at the Ohio Theater back in the ’60s, who was a German lady, was where we got a lot of our early pieces,” Joann said.
Originally, there was a house next door to them to the right that they decided to buy and tear down in 2015. They transformed their increased yard space to make room for a beautiful garden and a huge garage behind it. Pete and his sons have done most of the work on the home renovations and the new garage all by themselves by hand. They now have one of the largest pieces of yard space on Main Street.

Photo by Sam Swartz

Joann and Pete Backus pose inside their Madison, Ind., home with their dog, Axil.

One of the neat aspects that will be part of the tour at this home is the garage in the back that is styled like a ’50s themed restaurant. The garage is full of old antiques such as vintage signs, an old diner booth with a small jukebox on the table, a big jukebox that will be playing music during the tour (which originally came from an old Waffle House), an old coke bottle machine and many more unique pieces.
“This (the Coca Cola machine) is called a Vendo 23 from 1953-1954. You put a dime at the top, turn the knob and a Coke pops out of there. It will freeze a Coke; it gets that cold. Then you can deposit old bottles, which has a drum in there that turns all the mechanisms, that’s electric, “ Pete said.
Another interesting thing about the Backus home is that it is known to have a “Friendly Ghost” called Henry. Madison is apparently known to have several haunted buildings. Henry seems to love Christmas and is most active during that holiday. He likes to open cabinets and turn lights on and off, the Backuses said.
“One year, we had our tree up and all the Christmas lights up in the living room and we had gone out for the evening for a meal. Well, we had all these plaster boards across the front door that goes into the living room. When we came home, every light was on in there. There is no way someone could have got in there unless they got past those boards, and they are very heavy,” Joann said.
Joann also mentions that whenever it’s during the Christmas holidays, she will go into a room to turn off the lights, and turn around, and the lights are turned back on, which gives her chills.
Pre-sale tickets for the tour may be purchased through Nov. 15 for $15 for adults, after which they will be $20. Children’s tickets are $5 for ages 5-12. Phone orders and online orders are subject to a handling fee per ticket. Tickets may be ordered online at www.nightsbeforechristmas.com or by calling (812) 265-2956. Tickets also are sold at several local shops,

Photo by Sam Swartz

The Backuses say they have been constantly renovating their home at 939 W. Main St. in Madison, Ind.

Another popular feature of the tour is the Great Cookie Caper. This event is held at the Lanier-Madison Visitors Center, 601 W. First St.  It features a wide selection of homemade cookies and sweet treats that can be purchased by the box for $6 or $15 or you can buy three cookies for $1. This is the ninth year for the Great Cookie Caper, and each year the Christmas tour donates all proceeds to a local charitable organization, which this year’s will benefit Ruth Haven.

The Cookie Caper has raised nearly $25,000 in its eight-year existence, according to tour organizer Marci Jones. The home tour, meanwhile, raised around $34,000 after expenses last year.
The hours for the Cookie Caper are 4-7 p.m. both Fridays and 1-7 p.m. (while supplies last) both Saturdays of the tour.

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