By Harley Nefe
For over 60 years, High Country residents and visitors have been coming together to participate in the annual Blowing Rock Tour of Homes. What started with a group of women who had a desire to help the community has since continued to grow into an established event of the summer, raising thousands of dollars each year for local nonprofit organizations.
The 2021 Tour of Homes is set for Friday, July 23, and similar to last year, it will be held virtually.
“We were advised by health officials that it would be wise and best for it to be a virtual tour,” said Loy McGill, Chair of Tour of Homes. “And given the information about vaccination numbers in North Carolina and the fact that we have people coming to the High Country from all over, it was the only decision that we could make for the safety of the public.”
McGill said last year’s virtual tour went very well, as it raised around $62,000 with 100% of the proceeds going directly to nonprofits in the High Country.
“We’ve made between $60,000-$85,000 for a number of years, so we were very pleased that in a virtual year we were able to generate that kind of income,” McGill said. “People were extremely generous, and we really felt that they recognized the situation that the nonprofits are continuing to have to meet the dire need of the communities and the populations that they serve and that in the pandemic those needs continued and in many situations increased. People dug deep and helped with the situation. They really acknowledged that there was a need to make hope a promise and a commitment.”
Sponsored by the women of St. Mary’s of the Hills Episcopal Church, the Tour of Homes committee has been very busy with great joy and grace preparing for this year’s event, and they hope for another year with a strong turnout.
“It’s just an absolutely wonderful ministry, a wonderful fundraiser,” McGill said.
The Tour of Homes committee will be releasing the virtual tour online that can be accessed by visiting https://www.stmaryofthehills.org/tour. It is scheduled to go live on July 23 and will be available for a year. Viewers can forward the virtual tour to friends and family, and it can be seen as many times as one would like. Participation is free; however, viewers are encouraged to donate the suggested minimum of the $35 normal tour ticket price.
The tour will be showcasing four unique homes located in Blowing Rock — the homes of Polly and Richard Gambill, Jeff Roberts, Lee Rocamora and John Thompson, and Jean and Otis Sawyer.
“The homes are beautiful, and they are all different, and they are all just lovely,” McGill said. “We are so very thankful to the homeowners who so graciously let us go through their homes and share them with our viewers. Viewers are going to see four individual homes that have wow factors all their own. They’re homes of collectors; they all have over-the-top art. These people all live with art, and they live in homes with views that will knock your socks off.”
As part of the virtual tour, there will be a number of additional features for viewing pleasures including a floral demonstration and a cooking demonstration.
An agency representative from the Hunger and Health Coalition will also speak about the importance of the tour to not only their agency but all of the nonprofit organizations.
“We have a grant process, and nonprofits apply for a specific initiative telling us what they need the money for,” McGill said. “We are so pleased that we have been able to award every grant that has come before us. We feed the hungry; we clothe those who need clothing; we shelter those who are homeless; we provide for those who are battered. It’s just wonderful to know that we can, even in times of crisis like the pandemic, continue the good work. The agencies can continue to do the work.”
Along with the tour, there will also be an online auction, which will be up July 23 through Aug. 6 at noon.
Some of the delightful items included in the auction include the opportunity to be a racecar driver with all expenses paid, a bourbon tasting event, nights in the town enjoying fine dining and rentals, jewelry and art.
“There’s just something for everyone in the auction and in the homes,” McGill said. “I think people will be able to enjoy what they see or what they purchase, and they’ll know that what they are doing or seeing is going to make a difference in the lives of others. Not everyone is able to go out and volunteer, so this is a way that everyone can feel that they are contributing. They can let their dollars do the work, and that’s a meaningful way to help those that are less fortunate than perhaps we are.”
Read more about the four homes being highlighted in this year’s virtual tour with descriptions provided by the Tour of Homes committee here: https://www.stmaryofthehills.org/source/Tour%20of%20Homes%20home%20descriptions%20for%20Website%20and%20Epistle.pdf