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Nov 6, 2011 -
This time of year I always crave shrimp and scallops from the Windmill. Preparing for our annual Christmas show which opens today is the trigger. It has always been held on the first Sunday of November. It started in 1951 and continues today.
My earliest memory of the event was around 1981. I was new to the Gainan family and Mick worked late every night the week prior to the "show" and I had no idea what it was or what to expect. Now it's very clear what to expect and because of that, the anxiety begins to build around mid-September and continues until the doors open. I'm not sure why really, other than it's like having a few thousand people over to your house and you just want it to be perfect...I guess. There's a lot riding on the season. It's a true leap of faith.
You see, we buy the majority of our Christmas merchandise in early January (if you can imagine) and spend the year planning how to put it all together. It's an art that has been honed for 61 years now by our founders and has become a family tradition.
Until this year, I could be half way around the world and tell you exactly where people are in the process the week prior the show because it has become such a well-oiled machine. However, leave it to me to throw a monkey wrench in the whole thing.
At the beginning of the year I sat down with the design staff and buyers and pitched the concept of creating a "dream home" experience within the walls of the downtown store. I remember saying not just some furniture, "I'm talking walls, a front door and everything!" They humored me and appeared to accept the notion but when we all realized that it really was going to happen, I think we all, including me, took a simultaneous 'gulp'.
What a daunting task! The purpose was for our customers to have something to look forward to each year as we will unveil a new Christmas Dream Home each year with a new look and completely different theme as a part of our long standing traditional Christmas show.
This year's theme was inspired by my autographed copy of the book "Summers in France" by famed interior designer and star of Million Dollar Decorators, Kathryn Ireland, who pays tribute to simpler times in the European countryside. With obvious geographic and weather constraints, we aimed to create an environment that would be something that she be proud to be the inspiration of.
Rich textures, unique painting techniques, warm color tones, hand picked textiles, and a marriage of old and new one-of-a-kind looking furniture round out the dynamic plan. It's our hope that our Christmas Dream home might be a place that inspires a little dreaming in yours.
We are honored that many consider our tradition the beginning of the Holiday shopping season. We put the same amount of effort and love into every aspect of the tradition this year that we always have.
For as long as I can remember the day is so exciting, not just because the store looks and smells so good, but because I am going to see so many people who I really like. Our customers and their families are our friends and it's an honor that they consider our Christmas Show a family tradition.
Now, back to the shrimp and scallops. After the last door prize was given away, Chuck and Karolyn, Todd and Kara, Grandma "G" and our family would make our way to the Windmill for dinner. We left the dinner, filled to the brim with great food and another set of memories of Christmas Shows past to add to our collection that would make their way from our heads to our hearts.
Jim Gainan is President of Gainan's Flower and Garden Center in Billings.