Wheaton homes, show choir share spotlight in Holiday Housewalk
Five homes in downtown Wheaton, dating from 1897 to 2011, are all decked out for the holidays or decorated with a fall theme. Choral students from Wheaton North High School lead tours and carol outside.
It's all part of the Wheaton Holiday Housewalk from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 15. The young people are from Wheaton North High School's show choir, Flight, and the house walk is to benefit the choral group that members say has taken flight in the past year to new levels of performance and competitiveness.
Choir students and parents credit Kassandra Krause, Wheaton North's director of vocal music, with both bringing new life to the show choir and for being the inspiration behind the house walk.
Krause, who joined Wheaton North's staff for the 2013-14 school year, last spring led Flight to its first Grand Championship at the Mitchell Show Choir Classic in Mitchell, South Dakota, where the choir was recognized for best choreography and best vocals. Flight also won National Show Choir Championship Series Aspire Awards last school year for Best New Director and Most Promising Group.
"She has brought us to another level," said Sam Nicholas, a four-year member of the show choir who will be active in the housewalk. "We always had the talent, but she brought it to light and showed us how to be the best version of ourselves."
Krause, who taught in Danville before coming to Wheaton, said fond memories of the house walks in Winnetka when she was growing up led her to suggest a house walk as a fundraiser for the choir.
"This is really exciting for us," she said. "It's a way for us to be more visible in the community and give something back to the community."
Homes were selected to represent a variety of historical periods and styles. The oldest home, at 304 N. West, was built in 1897. The houses at 336 W. Prairie and 504 W. Harrison were constructed in 1926 and about 1929, respectively. Two newer homes round out the walk: 211 W. Franklin, built in 2007, and 625 N. Carlton, constructed in 2011.
"We were looking for a blend of homes," said Kelly Watson, house walk co-chairman. "That was the goal of the house walk, to offer something for everyone."
Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door. Krause said last week about 250 tickets had sold.
"We're hoping a lot of people will come at the door," she said.
Krause said the community and show choir parents have helped make the house walk possible. Vendors, some of whom may have items for sale during the walk, have helped decorate the homes.
"The community is really awesome," Krause said. "You can't get much better than the kids we have at Wheaton North."
Dee Pierce, who has a daughter in the show choir, said she agreed to decorate her home at 211 W. Franklin St. early for the house walk. Built in 2007, the house was designed to fit in with the turn-of-the century neighborhood and will be decked out for Christmas. Pierce said her daughter, Anna, a junior, had played basketball before joining the show choir two years ago.
"She auditioned for the show choir and really found herself in that," Pierce said. "There's a lot of camaraderie, even among schools that are competing with each other."
Watson, who also has a daughter in the show choir, said Krause has turned the group into a family, a home away from home for the members. Nicholas agreed.
"I love to sing and dance … but the thing I really like about it is the family atmosphere," he said. "We're there to help each other succeed."
Ariana Diaz, a three-year member of the show choir, also said she enjoyed the support of the group. Some of their best times are performing together in rehearsals, she said.
"It's not just everyone for themselves," she said.
Krause said the majority of Flight members may not pursue music as a career, but participating in show choir still can teach them lessons that will help in their future success.
"I teach music, obviously, but I teach life," she said. "They need to work to be the best version of themselves."
Under Krause's leadership, the show choir membership has grown from 36 to 48, Watson said. Krause said the show choir is a select group.
"We had 150 kids try out for 48 spots," she said.
Krause said proceeds from the house walk will help to continue to build the show choir. Flight has five trips planned this school year -- in the Chicago area, to Central Illinois and to Nashville.
Pierce said she and her husband attend all the competitions and are impressed with how Krause showcases the strengths of choir members.
"She puts together a show that is just genius," Pierce said. "We thoroughly enjoyed the show choir trips as a family."
Flight members, who have been selling tickets for the house walk, will spend the day helping to make the event a success.
"The kids are very involved," Watson said. "The kids have to work that day."
If you goWhat: Wheaton Holiday Housewalk
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 15
Where: Five homes in downtown Wheaton
Cost: $25 in advance, $30 at door of homes; buy tickets in advance at Wheaton North High School, PS Flowers, Carlson Paint, Glass & Art, Ivy, Serenade, Serene Teaz, Egg Harbor Cafe