A slice of local life -- Antonio and Joyce, a Christmas décor team

FRIENDLY BEAR and bountiful glass bulbs are just some of the décor elements planned and executed by Antonio Avarado and Joyce McCarty.

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FRIENDLY BEAR and bountiful glass bulbs are just some of the décor elements planned and executed by Antonio Avarado and Joyce McCarty.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in downtown Hood River, but nowhere is quite as Christmassy as the Oak Street Hotel.

The hotel changes its holiday décor with the seasons, but its Christmas display is what really wows both residents and visitors alike.

The displays are a joint effort between Antonio Alvarado, who has been with the hotel since 2009, and Joyce McCarty, 92-year-old mother of Denise McCravey, who owns the hotel with husband Mike.


OAK STREET HOTEL lights create a seasonal beacon at Seventh and Oak streets. Whimsical touches include a light-decked child’s bas-ketball hoop and bicycle on the roof.

Alvarado and McCarty start preparing for the year’s holiday display each fall.

“Holiday decorations are planned in early October, and I begin to organize the decorative items with the theme for the year,” McCarty said. She begins making interior arrangements in early November, and the large exterior arrangements mid-month.

“They are quite the team,” McCravey said. “Antonio cuts a pickup load of Douglas fir boughs in mid-November for Joyce to make fresh arrangements. Joyce does all the seasonal arrangements for the hotel.”

The last week of November finds Alvarado checking and stringing lights.

“Antonio is an expert at lighting displays and in securing the roof displays,” said McCravey. He is in charge of stringing and spacing the lights, as well as organizing all of the electrical connections with timers.

His responsibilities don’t end once the lights are up, however. He checks the display twice a day and replaces bulbs as needed.

“Antonio is a vital person in the holiday display at the hotel,” said McCravey. “When the decorating is finished and the lights come on, Antonio always smiles and tells us, ‘It’s beautiful.’”

And when the holidays are over, Alvarado carefully winds each strand of lights and organizes everything for storage.

Alvarado, who has lived in Hood River the past 24 years, has plenty of experience with light displays. He was at the Columbia Gorge Hotel for ten years, where he primarily worked on landscaping—planting flower bulbs, trimming and shaping hedges. He also put up the hotel’s holiday light display every year.

It would take him three months to set up all of the lights with help from two other people. He organized both storage and installation of the display until the hotel foreclosure put him out of a job. Soon after, he started working at the Oak Street Hotel.

Alvarado maintains all of the landscaping, holiday lights and other seasonal exterior decorations at the hotel, as well as its portfolio of vacation homes, said McCravey. He also works for Gorge Rentals Property Management and The Gorge Property Real Estate Team.

“Gorge Property Real Estate Team clients often rely on Antonio to prepare or maintain their yards when a house is on the market,” said McCravey. “His work varies with Gorge Rental Property Management as he does yard maintenance for tenants and owners, cleans out houses after tenants leave, and does outside maintenance and washing windows for larger complexes. Independent property owners contract through Gorge Rentals for yard care, seasonal cleanup and window washing.”

Alvarado’s favorite part of his job? “Making everything look cleaner and better,” he said.

Alvarado looks forward to putting up the holiday display each year because he knows how much the community enjoys and appreciates the lights.

“When we are on the roof installing the display, people always honk their horns and wave to let us know they like the decorations,” Alvarado said. His youngest son often asks to drive by the hotel at night to see the holiday lights, too.

“It’s fun to have people come into the hotel and stop to tell us how much they enjoy the decorations each year,” McCarty said. “Others honk their horns and wave. I especially enjoy it when kids stop to look at everything. Their faces shine with delight.”

“Antonio is the best person I have ever had to help me decorate the hotel,” said McCarty. “He has a second sense of where things go and how I like them displayed. Although I am 92 years old, Antonio lets me do whatever I want, except climb a ladder.”

McCravey said her mother did the interior design when they first remodeled the hotel in 2001. “My mother is the most incredible woman I have ever met,” she said. “Each season she makes and changes arrangements and decorations both in the interior and exterior.

“I am amazed each Christmas. She creates new arrangements and ways to decorate the hotel. Antonio is always ready to work with her and make it beautiful.”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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