— LOUISVILLE, Ill. —
There are people who decorate their homes for Christmas and then there is Jackie Ruholl.
She designs and displays 60 Christmas trees every year.
Not six. Not 16. But 60. And each is special.
"They're never the same," Ruholl said. "Never ever the same. I probably have close to 150 trees, all total."
It's a collection of Yuletide paraphernalia that's taken more than 35 years to gather and it hasn't slowed. Ruholl said she bought a tree last week, and she's always acquiring new ornaments.
As Ruholl would recall, "the Christmas bug bit" her as a child in her hometown of Fort Worth, Texas. She said she would go downtown with her family during the holidays and look in all the storefront windows.
"They were all decorated so amazingly," she said.
That’s when she started her lifelong obsession of collecting Christmas decorations.
Only one tree remains constant. It is a1950's-era workshop featuring elves, busily readying things for Christmas. Another favorite is covered with gingerbread men that look good enough to eat. There is one covered in surprisingly festive frogs. And, of course, 57 other different, immaculate designs.
Decorating them all is a process that begins in October and takes two months to complete, and the work doesn't stop until the baubles and bells are packed back up.
All the handiwork isn't for the family alone, though. Between 400 and 500 people walk through her forest of Christmas trees each holiday season.
"We just want to share it," she said. "It's about seeing friends you haven't seen in a while."
Though she decorates for every holiday, from Easter to Flag Day, Ruholl said Christmas is her favorite.
"I think it's just a great time for family," she said. "For me, it's just about bringing everybody together."
As for the future, some days she thinks she's getting too old for all the work involved. But, inevitably, people ask her whether she's decorating again and when they can come see it. For that reason, she said, she doesn't want to stop.
Details for this story were provided by Genna Ord of the Effingham (Ill.) Daily News.