Walk through the front door of Anne Scherrer’s Boise home and you’re greeted by an all-consuming Christmas spirit.
For last year’s holiday season she decked everything — walls, ceilings, windows, furniture — with pictures of holiday scenes, knickknacks of the season, homemade Christmas quilts and lots of garlands, heavy with ornaments. You could spot her endless themes of snowmen, reindeer, trains, Winnie the Pooh and characters from Disney, “The Wizard of Oz” and more.
The decorations typically start at the front door and wind through every room of the house.
“Christmas was always really big in our family. We always decorated everything,” Scherrer says. “It’s the happiest time of year. It’s like being in Disneyland without the expense.”
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Scherrer is the president of the Boise Tree Trimmers Collectors Club, a group that collects Hallmark ornaments and organizes events to benefit the community. Her home was one of a handful open to fellow members on the club’s annual tour.
“Christmas is my fun,” she says.
We can pretty much see an entire Hallmark store by going to each other’s houses.
Anne Scherrer, President Boise Tree Trimmers Collectors Club
And only a third of her collection is on display. Even she is afraid to count how many she and her husband, Bill, who is a co-conspirator, have acquired over the years. She likes Santa Clauses; he likes snowmen.
Don’t think for a moment she is the only person with a Christmas ornament obsession. Hallmark collectors clubs exist across the country, and for most it’s not a casual hobby. There are coveted limited editions and copious series that hook you in and keep you going. Ornaments cost between $10 and $30 on average and do increase in value over time, although that’s not a driving force for most collectors.
Hank Nystrom, a former Channel 2 cameraman who now freelances for Idaho Public Television, founded the Boise Tree Trimmers in 1994. It averages 30 to 35 members.
Nystrom’s home, also on last year’s tour, featured about a half-dozen themed trees, plus wreaths and wall displays.
“I usually start decorating right after Halloween,” he said. “That way it’s not too overwhelming.”
Nikki Gridley, of Meridian, is the vice president of another Hallmark club. Snow Buddies of Boise was founded in 1998 and has more than 40 members.
She, too, has multiple trees, including one with 435 Hallmark ornaments.
“All my trees are Hallmark trees,” she said. “We literally take all our rugs out and put in Christmas rugs. We take down all our pictures, too, and put up Christmas pictures.”
There is more to these clubs than just oohing and aahing over each others collections. It’s a social activity and a benefit to the community.
The Tree Trimmers meet for Easter egg hunts, gift exchanges, ornament painting events and a Christmastime tour that ends in a potluck dinner. Last year, about 25 people went from house to house to check out each other’s collections.
The club raises money for charities in a variety of ways, including a club auction of older ornaments. Since it started the club has raised about $16,000 for charities such as the Idaho Humane Society, Special Olympics and the Twin Falls Senior Center.
The Trimmers and Buddies also vie for Hallmark artists to visit Idaho for ornament signings.
After Boise’s Jordan’s Hallmark store closed in 2016, the two Treasure Valley clubs moved their sponsorships to Twin Falls Hallmark, overwhelming that store with long lines of diehard fans.
Now, Meridian has a new store. Winnie’s Hallmark opened last month at 1180 N. Eagle Road, and it’s likely that the clubs will move their sponsorships there.
Erika Garcia, of Jerome, belongs to both Treasure Valley clubs, plus a couple of online clubs and some Facebook groups.
Her collection is nearly 90 percent Hallmark. She started collecting “unofficially” in 2004 and then got really involved in 2007. She did not even realize there were Hallmark clubs until she went to an artist signing in Boise a few years ago. Her daughter joined Snow Buddies when she was 6.
The two, along with Garcia’s mother, attended the national Hallmark convention in Kansas City, the corporate home of Hallmark, this past August, where you can pick up exclusive ornaments to fill out your collection.
“There are other things I could spend my money on, but I like Hallmark, and they will be around for many, many years,” Garcia says. “If you truly have a passion for Christmas and decorating, and you love Hallmark, you need to get involved in a club. I wouldn’t know what to do without my Hallmark family.”
A theme for everyone
One lady on last year’s tour collects only Charlie Brown and Peanuts Gang ornaments. Eagle’s Mary Morrell collects trains. Some like “Star Wars” ornaments. There are cute puppies, Dr. Seuss characters, cars, trains and planes and other keepsake series. There’s even an ornament to mark the Houston Astros’ World Series victory.
Nystrom decorates each of his trees with different themes.
“I have too many themes to tell you about,” he says. “I just start at a different end of the closet, and when I start putting things up, that’s how it evolves.”
A definition of a perfect Christmas: You don’t blow any fuses.
Hank Nystrom, founder of Boise Tree Trimmers Collectors Club
This year, one of his trees will be white for his vintage ornaments. He’ll also have one for ornaments that move and make noise or music. And then there’s his “Redneck Tree.”
It’s decorated with shotgun shell lights, redneck Santa Clauses, bears, wildlife, and other outdoorsy and hunting things.
Is this normal?
Nystrom admits he gets weird comments from his friends, as he is quite the collector. He once had a beer can collection — 9,000 of them. He’s cut that down to about 400, with maybe a couple of thousand at his mother’s house. The kicker? He doesn’t drink beer.
His ornament obsession started innocently enough.
“When I was a kid, I went to Skyline Drug in Idaho Falls after Christmas and they had these ornaments for like 50 or 75 percent off,” he says. “There was an Eskimo sitting on an ice cube, I liked it, I bought it.
“That’s how it started, and I still collect the ‘Frosty Friends’ from that day on. I have every one of them except maybe one or two repaints.”
Nystrom is the backbone of the club, Scherrer says. “Without Hank, we’d be floundering.”
Undoubtedly, Santa would be proud of him and his trees.
“I don’t know if Santa could get in to see the house,” he laughed. “But yes, he probably would be proud of me.”
Interested in joining?
▪ Boise Tree Trimmers Collectors Club, 208-323-1247
▪ Snow Buddies of Boise, 208-412-7802, 208-412-7862 SnowBuddiesofBoise.com