Traditionally, families gather around the Christmas tree to open presents––but at the American Cancer Society Christmas Fantasy House, individual traditions are magnified. The 2009 house, for example, featured not one but five Christmas trees, each draped in ribbons and white lights. Other years' open houses have featured a jolly Santa Claus, dining room chairs hung with pinecone wreaths, and flower-festooned light fixtures. Visitors not only peruse the Christmas-themed home for charity, they can also shop for sweets or enter holiday-themed raffles.
Proceeds from the event go to the American Cancer Society, a volunteer-based program that reaches 3,400 communities nationwide. The ACS supports research, education, advocacy for all types of cancer, and helps a large number of cancer patients, offering phone counseling 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In 1955, James and Gladys Bluemel opened a small nursery dedicated to growing trees and shrubs and to helping locals with landscaping projects. Now, their son, Mike, runs the much-expanded family business, which thrives on bulk-supply sales, playground resurfacing, lawn care, and snow and ice control during snowman uprisings. Though he’s moved away from the nursery’s original shrub and tree business, he and his green-thumbed staff still maintain a garden center stocked with seasonal plants, garden décor, and essential supplies.
While customers browse Bluemel’s aisles, they'll likely spot a commonality between the perennials, annuals, flowers, herbs, and vegetables: a sticker reading “Dome Grown.” This label marks a plant born and raised in the garden center, which accounts for about 85% of the center’s living merchandise. Having tended and nurtured the plants since their geneses, the staff—who share 35 years of experience—can dispense tips on how to properly care for them, as well as share adorable baby-plant photos.
In 1875, Charles Hawks founded Hawks Nursery Company to outfit local farmers and residents with plant stock: usually fruit trees, shade trees, and shrubs. As towns grew more populated, the company’s staff grew, too, and soon Charles employed 200 salesmen, who traveled the Midwest by horse and buggy, train, or high-powered propeller beanie to sell their stock. When the Depression began atrophying business, Charles responded by expanding into the landscaping industry. There, the company really blossomed. Today, a team of landscape designers—most with college degrees in the field—transforms exterior spaces with verdant plant life, patio designs, and water hazards. The landscape artists’ stellar reputation even earned them landscaping work at the Milwaukee County Zoo and outside of the Milwaukee Art Museum.
Hands-on gardeners flock to Hawks Nursery, wandering down outdoor paths that wind past potted flowers and plants, fountains, and trees. The serpentine paths funnel into an information gazebo, where gardeners of all skill levels can ask questions, such as how to care for newly transplanted shrubs or how to teach trees to grow caramel apples. An interior show room sells high-quality gardening supplies, patio furniture, and tropical plants, as well as seasonal decorations.
Keep it Green by Grounds Keeper, Inc.'s professionals restore order to outdoor spaces with services designed to keep landscapes green and patios polished. Members of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers, they dole out tender loving care to turf with thatching and aeration services and by thwarting potentially harmful invasions by grubs, Japanese beetles, crabgrass, and pool salesmen. Membership with the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and the Metropolitan Builders Association makes the team well-suited to tackle design projects ranging from stone-wall construction to the building of outdoor kitchens and fire pits. Colder months call them back to plots to help homeowners to shovel or plow their way out after heavy snowfalls.
More than a century after it blossomed into a circus headquarters and hosted dozens of acts, including P.T. Barnum's legendary Greatest Show on Earth, the town of Delavan proudly exhibits its distinctive past. Big-top tributes can be seen at Tower Park, where statues of circus animals such as a giraffe and an elephant savor their amnesty from mini-golf courses. Delavan's early days live on through Greek Revival architecture that dates back to the mid-1800s, including the Allyn Mansion and the Israel Stowell Temperance House, originally an alcohol-free safe haven that eventually served as a government meeting center.Delavan's quaint downtown district, lined with old-fashioned lampposts and brick-paved walkways, boasts an assortment of antique stores and small cafés. Throughout the rest of the town, well-manicured parks and 13 miles of forested shoreline along Delavan Lake create a scenic backdrop for horseback rides, hiking, water recreation, and composing haikus on the ground with leaves.