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Main Event: Holiday tours raise money for Mayowood

History Center of Olmsted County logo
History Center of Olmsted County logo
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Dressed in holiday finery, the grand style of the historic Mayowood Mansion welcomed some 2,800 people to its annual Christmas tours, Nov. 5 through Dec. 11. Proceeds of more than $46,000 go to the general fund at the History Center of Olmsted County, hosts of the tours since 1992.

Tours began at the History Center with refreshments and a short film about the history of the mansion and the Mayo family. Guests were then taken by trolley to Mayowood and welcomed by tour guide Larry Gifford. With this season of tours, Gifford just completed 20 years as guide, or docent, at the mansion. He said he enjoys his role, as he has had the opportunity to meet people from all over the U.S. and the world.

Mayowood Mansion was built in 1911 by Dr. Charles H. Mayo, co-founder of Mayo Clinic.

The tour began in the gallery and proceeded through 32 rooms of the mansion, many decorated for Christmas by Rochester-area individuals and businesses.

Bonny Stockhas decorated a room for the tour the past 11 years. This year she decorated the study, and next year plans to decorate the music room.

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"I've been touring the mansion with my family since the '70s," she said. "And always loved it. I was fascinated with the mansion."

Stock attended the tour with eight other members — including Val Haggstromand Jan Coon— of the Cannon Falls High School class of 1975. It was the group's second year to attend the tour.

Coon said she enjoyed learning about the history of the Mayo family and the gatherings held at the mansion.

"Seeing a piece of that history is amazing," she said.

Attendees Marilynand Ron Barrfrom Vancouver, British Columbia, were in town visiting family for the holidays and decided to tour Mayowood.

"We've been on other Mayo tours," Marilyn said, "including the summer tour at the mansion. We loved it, and that's why we came back."

Carol Feeleyattended with her grandsons Jaxonand Nickolys. Carol said that while she had taken the tour before, the boys had not, and they wanted to see a mansion.

"I just love that we have this history right here in Rochester," Carol added.

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Corlis Giffordand her niece Kacey Radkewere attending the tour for the first time. The two were spending the day together in celebration of Kacey's birthday.

"A friend recommended the tour; she said it's gorgeous," Gifford said. "I enjoy learning the history."

"And I get to spend the day with her," Radke added.

"This (tour) is a great thing to do for the season," said Patty Gilmore, who attended with her friend and colleague from Byron Primary School, Tracy Boyum. "It was just marvelous. I enjoyed learning the history. The Mayos were such forward thinkers."

"I was studying the house," Boyum said. "And amazed at what I saw. I was trying to put myself in that time period, imagining what that was like."

Boyum added she would like to return for the summer tour, to see the gardens and to continue her study of the home.

In 2017, tours of Mayowood will take place between April 19 and Oct. 26. Call the History Center of Olmsted County at 507-282-9447 for more information.

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