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Clifton Candlelight Homes Tour Dec. 3

Caroling on horseback, decorated houses, tree lighting and choirs.

Handmade Santas, original paintings, menorahs and stars twinkling in a breakfast nook — these special touches and more await guests on the annual Clifton Candlelight Tour of Homes.

CHRISTMAS AND Chanukah are both celebrated in the tour set for Saturday, Dec. 3, in the historic Town of Clifton. The homes tour is from 4-7:30 p.m., followed by the traditional lighting of the town Christmas tree and singing of carols in Ayre Square on Main Street.

But the fun begins earlier in the day, at 2 p.m., with a Caroling on Horseback parade sponsored by the Clifton Horse Society. Local residents decorate their horses in holiday finery and parade through the town singing Christmas carols. Afterward, prizes are awarded in various categories to the horses and riders.

Five homes will be open to the public, plus three churches and the Clifton caboose. And event co-chairs Jennifer Chesley and Lynne Garvey Wark say this year's tour is truly special.

"I like the fact that there's a broad range of decorating styles, from elegant Victorian to cozy country," said Chesley. "And our homes tour has a festive, but relaxed and friendly feeling about it. It's definitely one of my favorite town events."

"Because of the setting of the town and its Norman Rockwell appearance, to me, it feels like stepping back in time," she continued. "And I also love seeing and hearing the choirs in the churches because they're an important and enjoyable part of the tour, as well as the lovely houses."

THE SECOND Baptist Church Gospel Choir will perform inside the Clifton Primitive Baptist Church. The Chantilly High Touch of Class Carolers will entertain in the Clifton Presbyterian Church, and the Clifton Baptist Church will also host a Christmas program. Performances are on the half hour, from 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Raffle tickets will be on sale for prizes including dinners at local restaurants and a one-night stay at the Canary Cottage Bed & Breakfast in Clifton.

The homes on the 2005 candlelight tour belong to Esther and Patrick Pline, Raie Paxson, Rick and Phoebe Peterson, Geri and Susan Yantis and Michelle and Jeff Stein. Shuttle buses will be provided this year, as two of the homes sit atop a steep hill.

Tickets are $15, adults; $5, children ages 4-12. Ages 3 and under are free, but strollers are not allowed. Refreshments will be available in the caboose, and members of the Clifton Lions Club will greet visitors.

Tickets may be purchased in Centreville at Ribbons Hallmark in Centrewood Plaza, and in Clifton at Baskets & Boughs, the Clifton Store, Cottage Art, All that Glitters, Noodles & Noggins and the Clifton Coffee Mill. They're also available at the Temptations gift shops in Burke and in the Colonnade Shopping Center at Union Mill.

For more information, contact Wark at 703-322-1811 or lghassoc@erols.com, or Chesley at 703-830-2129 or townofclifton@aol.com.

"It's a delightful, beautiful and musical way for the community to come together and kick off the holiday season," said Wark. "I really enjoy pulling this event together because it engenders such good, community spirit and is fun for everyone."

She and Chesley are in their fourth year as co-chairs, and they begin work on the next year's candlelight homes tour as soon as the current one ends. But, said Chesley, "When I walk through the homes and hear the positive comments of the visitors and see the smiles on their faces, it makes it all worthwhile."

<sh>The Stein Home

<bt>Built in 1904, this Dell Avenue house is home to Jeff and Michelle Stein. They've lived there since 2000 and added three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a family room in a 2003 renovation.

Cheerful and colorful, the dining-room walls are blue, the family room is green and one bathroom is painted purple. Michelle's favorite room is the master bathroom because its blue color reminds her of the ocean, and a tile fish made by her mother adorns one wall.

Natural woods, tile and coral highlight the home, and don't miss the interesting and unusual artwork, such as a painting of a banana tree and a poster of the Atlanta Olympics with a frame made by Michelle's artist mom.

This is the first time a house decorated for Chanukah will be on the tour, and beautiful menorahs will be in the dining room and family room. Stars of David and dreidels complete the theme, as well as the dreidel lights on the front door.

<sh>The Pline House

<bt>This Victorian farmhouse on Main Street was built in 1907 and has also been renovated and its size doubled by an addition. Esther and Patrick Pline have lived there 10 years, and they had architect Jim Hricko design the renovations to mirror the original farmhouse, but add architectural flair.

Then Patrick did most of the construction work, himself, adding a family room, breakfast nook and foyer on the main level, a master bedroom and master bathroom upstairs, plus a finished den/basement area. The kitchen is red, the foyer is cobalt blue and there's an apple-green bathroom.

Esther's favorite room is the family room because it's bright, airy and has lots of windows. She says it's "comfortable and soothing" to hang out there. The Christmas tree in the family room will feature things the family's collected over the years, and the home will be adorned with lots of candles, garlands and wreaths.

Eclectic and artsy, the home features Esther's handpainted leaves bordering the foyer and stars twinkling in the breakfast nook. She collects wooden, handpainted, decorative art pieces by Sticks, and Brian Andreas' "Story People" — handcarved figures made out of old barn wood and inscribed with stories.

<sh>The Paxson Home

<bt>At the corner of Pendleton Avenue and Clifton Road, Raie Paxson's home was built in 1905 by a founder of the Bull Run Power Company — which first brought electricity to Clifton.

The back half of this Colonial Revival house was enlarged and restored in 1973. The dining room was extended, a laundry room was added and the old kitchen became a family room. The project also included a new kitchen — which was completely remodeled in 2005.

The home features late 1800s furnishings and many antiques, in keeping with the house, itself. The muted shades of Williamsburg paints also complement the house's traditional nature. And the rooms have white trim and their original crown molding.

In the dining room, Paxson has an 1875, maple, step-back hutch containing French, Quimper dishes. Also highlighting that room is a "birthday cupboard" given to her by her late grandmother and dating back to about 1890.

Her Christmas decorations also carry out the Williamsburg theme — fresh greenery and garlands, candles, a "kissing ball" and a real tree in the home's original living room in the front of the house. It's adorned with old pewter and tin ornaments, cranberries and rustic stars, and an antique quilt serves as the tree skirt.

<sh>The Peterson House

<bt>Rick and Phoebe Peterson have lived in this custom-built, modern Victorian home on Water Street since 1990. It has an open floorplan, and the dining room is the most formal room of this otherwise casual, family house. Phoebe especially loves the view from the living and dining rooms, looking out over the town.

"It's a cozy house," she said. "I enjoy my sunroom in the winter, and the sunset coming into the house from the western side." She's also proud of her collection of mercury glass on the dining-room table.

The Petersons enjoy collecting antiques, and they're on display in the home, as are the oil paintings of landscapes that Phoebe painted, herself. She also likes gardening, so many of the fresh greens decorating the house for the holidays will be from her garden.

Created from old quilts, handmade Santas with cheery faces will make things merry, as will lots of little candles, creches and a homemade gingerbread house made by the Petersons' children. And the country-style, "ever-eclectic, family Christmas tree" will adorn the sunroom, off the TV room.

<sh>The Yantis Home

<bt>Architect Geri Yantis designed this home for himself, wife Susan and their family on Water Street. It was built in 2001, and they've lived there since January 2002. The exterior is reminiscent of a Victorian farmhouse, and the interior features an Arts and Crafts decorating style of simple trim and warm, earthtone colors.

"The great room is unique," said Geri. "It's both a formal and informal space — someplace we can live in, but large enough to entertain." The kitchen, too, is for both eating and gathering. Highlighting the study is an antique desk and an antique drafting table used by Geri. It also features cork wallpaper and chocolate-brown draperies.

The patterned furniture is in golds and yellows with nail-head trim and is a mixture of antiques and modern pieces. The walls are in taupe greens, yellows and golds.

The main level has maple floors, and the fireplace in the great room has a stone hearth, a wooden mantle and tiles on the facing around the fireplace. A built-in window seat goes the length of the room for a comfortable, homey feel.

For the holidays, the home will have Christmas trees in the great room and in the kitchen area. They'll be decorated with ornaments gathered over the years — some handed down from Geri and Susan's parents, and others made by their children.

<sh>The three churches

<bt>* Established in 1871, the Clifton Primitive Baptist Church was built by former slaves and was Fairfax County's first black church. Its altar, handmade pews and pot-bellied stove are all original to the church.

* The Clifton Baptist Church features a gabled roof, steeple and Gothic arched windows. Construction was completed in 1912, but services were first held in 1875 in the home of George Tillet, who served with Mosby's Rangers during the Civil War.

* Dating back to 1870, the Clifton Presbyterian Church was also founded by the families of soldiers who fought in this area during the Civil War. In the early 1900s, it acquired the manse next door.