VENERSBORG — For the Shelton women of Ridgefield, their Christmas season starts in Venersborg, where they make wreaths inside an old one-room schoolhouse.
“It’s a tradition,” Angelene Shelton said as she worked alongside two of her adult daughters. “It’s a great way to kick off the holiday season for us.”
They weaved together pine sprigs and other greenery, using wire to attach the vegetation to a frame made of braided grape vines — and they weren’t the only ones.
By Sunday afternoon, more than a hundred people had shown up to the old school house, now a community center, for a chance to make the wreaths for free. All of the supplies were provided, as well as hot apple cider, Christmas cookies and other snacks.
Shelton’s daughters, 19-year-old Jessi and 21-year-old Camille, will likely move away next year, so Sunday may have been the last time they were able to attend the event together. This year, the women came up with the idea to also make four holiday swags (bouquets of greenery) to decorate the classroom of one of Angelene Shelton’s fellow second-grade teachers.
Information about Events
For more information about events at the old Venersborg schoolhouse, visit
Many students at Pleasant Valley Primary School are big fans of The Elf on a Shelf and look for evidence that the elf has left them a surprise. Angelene Shelton said she bets that when the students see the holiday swags this week, they’ll start looking around the classroom for the elf that might have left them there.
“They’re full of spirit,” she said. “It’s very sweet.”
Friends and family
The wreath-making party began about a decade ago, when Kristine White had some friends over to her Battle Ground-area home to build the holiday decorations. A few years later, the event had grown so big that it moved to the community center, where it’s been going strong ever since. This year, the length of the event was expanded to six hours to accommodate more people.
Event organizers accept donations from the public and host a raffle at the party, but the event primarily is a gift to the public from the Venersborg community center, White said. Although the speed at which the event grew was a bit overwhelming, she said, she was blessed to have many people help her pull it off.
“I have met so many new friends doing this,” White said. “It’s awesome.”
One friend, Donna Delay, said the event helps get her in the Christmas spirit. “This is the occasion that puts Christmas in my heart,” she said.
The event also is attended by a life-skills program that helps adults with intellectual disabilities. Elizabeth Francis, program coordinator, had about 15 people in tow on Sunday afternoon. The program helps them learn social skills, and it provides them with a sense of family, especially if they don’t have contact with their biological relatives around the holidays, Francis said.
“This is a family atmosphere for them,” she said. “Even if they don’t have family, we’re like a family.”
Working on the lawn outside of the schoolhouse, Battle Ground neighbors Debbie McIntosh and Roberta McArthur were attending the event for their first time. McIntosh, who said she wasn’t very artistic, was pleased with how simple it was to make a wreath.
“It’s coming along,” she said, admiring her holly-leaf, evergreen and pine-cone creation. “It’s not really something you have to be good at to do.”
She sought McArthur’s advice. “Now, is that finished?” McIntosh asked. “I don’t want to overdo it.”
McArthur gave her friend one more bough of holly, but said that the wreath might not need it. “I think it looks pretty like it is,” McArthur said.
They’ll likely be back next year. The women said they now plan to make the event part of their holiday tradition.