After canceling home-and-garden events last year, many central Ohio civic associations are heading out on tour again this summer.
Although some neighborhoods, such as Westgate and Olde Towne East, have called off tours for a second year, others are moving forward, but with some big changes.
Two of the season’s biggest and earliest home-and-garden tours — Bexley and German Village — are dropping the “home” to stick exclusively to outdoor attractions.
“Obviously, people aren’t ready to open their homes yet and we weren’t going to ask them to do that,” said Chris Hune, president of the German Village Society, which skipped a tour last year for the first time since tours began in 1960.
Instead, the society’s annual Haus und Garten Tour will take place the last Saturday in June, as is customary, without the haus part.
The Bexley Women’s Club made a similar decision. The club will launch central Ohio’s home tour season next Sunday by featuring 12 gardens.
Organizers originally hoped to simply push the 2020 tour back a year but started to reconsider in September, as the COVID virus showed no sign of vanishing.
“As we planned, we thought, ‘How will we do this? Will we have to cancel?’ ” wondered Women’s Club President Akisa Fukuzawa. “If we planned to do it indoors, a lot of homeowners wouldn’t want to do it.”
Jane Baldwin, one of the tour’s co-chairs, knew the club would need another idea.
“I said, ‘We need a plan B,’ and someone said, ‘Let’s just do it outside.”
So instead of a blend of indoors and outdoors, next Sunday’s Bexley tour will feature a dozen gardens, including Bexley’s North and South community gardens, along with private gardens.
Mary and Jim Zeier will open their garden for the tour for the second time, showcasing a lush assortment of foliage including hostas, lilacs, roses, irises, coneflowers, wisteria, jack-in-the-pulpit and Italian poppy,
“I love what the Bexley Women’s Club does,” Mary Zeier said. “They help people more and more all the time. And I love my garden and gardening and being able to just plant what I want.”
Even some tours later in the season are taking a cautious approach. The Short North Tour of Homes and Gardens will stay outside during its Sept. 19 event, showcasing only patios and gardens.
“We ultimately decided to just stay with the garden tour,” said Masana Noma, who is organizing this year’s tour with Gayle Rosen. “We have a great location for a walking tour, along Goodale Park, and didn’t want to gamble with last-minute COVID changes.”
The Buckeye Lake Tour of Homes will also skip indoor tours this year, opting instead for an hourlong boat tour of lake properties, similar to what tour organizers did last year.
Other tours are glad to be back after trying “virtual” events last year. The Westerville garden tour WesterFlora, for example, will celebrate its 30th year in person.
“We did the virtual tour last year so we could count it but we’re glad to be back for our 30th,” said Vickie Muse, one of the organizers. “To have it live and in person, it’s a big deal.”
After a virtual event last year, the Merion Village Garden Tour will return in July with a hybrid designed to be COVID-sensitive: a virtual tour with self-guided tours of front lawn gardens.
For organizers, home-and-garden tours are more than just pleasant ways to spend a weekend day. They offer a way to show off a community and bring neighborhoods together.
“It’s a great way to celebrate what’s special about the neighborhood,” said Rosen, one of the Short North tour organizers. “There’s so much character and history in the Short North that needs to be highlighted.”
Home-and-garden tours also serve as the main fundraisers for many civic associations. The financial loss of the German Village Haus und Garten Tour was so severe that the society had to lay off two staff members last year.
“We typically net about $150,000 a year from the tour,” said Hune, with the German Village Society. “Financially, it has been difficult.”
The blow was so substantial that the society is considering hosting another tour later this year to help offset the loss, Hune said.
Late-season tours are hoping that by August and September, things will be back enough to normal to allow tours to skip COVID restrictions.
“By then, I don’t think we’ll have to (apply restrictions),” said Debbie Sweet, one of the organizers of the Columbus Garden Railway Society Tour, which will take place Sept. 12.
The Central Ohio chapter of the National Association of Remodeling Association also hopes its October tour date will allow a return to normal. The group held its Fall Home Improvement Showcase tour last year, but with COVID precautions such as mask requirements, hand sanitizers and limited crowds.
“Hopefully that won’t be the case this year,” said Executive Director Pam Patter. “But if it is, we’ll take care of it.”
Tours to take
Central Ohio home-and-garden tours this year include, in chronological order:
(Note: Look for “upcoming details” on websites that have not been fully updated with this year’s information.)
• Bexley House & Garden Tour, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 6. A dozen gardens will be showcased, including the Bexley Victory Garden and the Bexley South Garden, a community garden. Tickets cost $20 ($25 the day of tour). Visit www.bexleywomen.org/house-garden-tour.
• German Village Haus und Garten Tour, 2 to 6 p.m. and 8 to 10:30 p.m. June 26. What is perhaps the area’s best-known tour will take place this year but feature 12 outdoor sites, leaving the haus at home. Tickets cost $25 for the afternoon tour and $40 for the evening tour. Visit germanvillage.com/2021/gardentour/
• Merion Village Garden Tour, July 11-17. After a virtual tour last year, the South Side neighborhood returns with a hybrid this year. A virtual tour will be complemented by free self-guided tours of front lawns. For upcoming details, visit www.merionvillage.org/garden-tour.
• WesterFlora, noon to 6 p.m. July 18. The free Westerville garden tour, now in its 30th year, will take place in person after a virtual event last year. Visit www.westerflora.com.
• Buckeye Lake Tour of Homes, 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m., Aug. 8. The annual tour will skip the indoors and opt for an hourlong boat tour of lake properties, launching from Buckeye Lake Winery. Tickets cost $15. For upcoming details, visit www.buckeyelakecivicassociation.org.
• Worthington Tour of Homes & Gardens, 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. Sept. 12, this year featuring 1920s homes and buildings in Worthington. For upcoming details, visit worthingtonhistory.org.
• Columbus Garden Railway Society Tour, 1 to 5 p.m. Sept. 12. The free and kid-friendly tour of outdoor trains will be held again this year. For upcoming details, visit www.theCGRS.org.
• Kitchen Kapers, 1 to 5 p.m. Sept. 12. The event, which raises money to fight cancer, showcases beautiful kitchens, returns this year. Tickets cost $30 in advance or $35 at the door. Visit www.kitchenkapers.org.
• Short North Tour of Homes and Gardens, Sept. 18-19. This year’s tour will stay outside and will focus on gardens and patios around Goodale Park. The preview party Sept. 18 will feature tours from 4 to 7 p.m., with the party from 7 to 10 p.m. Tickets to the event cost $100. Sept. 19 tours will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets cost $20 in advance. Visit shortnorthcivic.org/hometour.
• Parade of Homes, noon to 6 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays, Sept. 23 to Oct. 10. After a year off, the Building Industry Association of Central Ohio showcase of new homes will return in a different form. Instead of a single site, the parade will feature homes throughout central Ohio. For upcoming details, visit www.biaparade.com.
• Fall Home Improvement Showcase, Oct. 2-3. Sponsored by the Columbus Chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, the tour showcases remodeled homes throughout central Ohio. For upcoming details, visit www.trustnari.org/home-improvement-showcase/.