Although the calendar still read November, it certainly felt a lot like Christmas in downtown Fremont on Saturday.
The sights and sounds of the holiday season filled the Main Street corridor as carolers, Christmas trees and even a few of Santa’s reindeer could be found throughout the downtown area.
What brought all the festive cheer to the Historic Downtown Fremont District was MainStreet of Fremont’s Annual Christmas Walk.
The event was designed as a way to bring families, already celebrating Thanksgiving together, downtown to kick off the season and to get their holiday shopping done at various locally owned businesses.
“The Christmas Walk itself was designed to be a great way to kick off the holiday season in Downtown Fremont,” said Shannon Mullen, executive director of MainStreet of Fremont during a previous interview with the Tribune. “In the days of crazy Black Friday shopping and all the other activities going on, it was a great way for us to come together as a community. Soon it became a normal, year-after-year Christmas tradition that harnessed community and holiday spirit.”
After being held on Black Friday for a number of years, this year’s event was moved to Saturday the 25th to avoid competing with the Nebraska Cornhusker football game, and to allow the festivities to run throughout the day.
With the change from Friday to Saturday, downtown businesses featured a variety of Christmas-themed events and shopping deals from morning until night.
Wise Olde Owl Gift Shop, 439 N. Main Street, was packed with customers trying to find the perfect Christmas gift; from candles and jewelry to Husker decorations and wine accessories.
“We’ve been packed,” said Brian Siel, co-owner of the shop on Saturday. “We’re offering different deals all day and we’ve got bread and dips for people to try, as well as cider and hot tea.”
At Cornerline Gallery, 453 N. Main Street, children had an opportunity to make their own Christmas tree ornaments and enjoy free cookies as parents perused the art gallery’s offerings.
“A lot of people are discovering us for the first time, which is always a good thing,” said Polly Jensen, owner and founder at Cornerline.
According to Jensen, although she was reticent of the change from Friday to Saturday at first, the new schedule allowed her to get the kids involved in the festivities.
“I wasn’t sure when they switched it because we really enjoyed it last year, but having it during the day has turned out great,” she said on Saturday. “Having it throughout the day, there is more we can do for the kids, and it is just a beautiful day out which always make a difference.”
Although the event does have the focus, and intent, of getting residents downtown to shop at local businesses, it is the fun Christmas-themed activities that really draw the crowds every year.
One Christmas-themed attraction that brought families to the area was a pair of Santa’s reindeer at the corner of 6th Street and Park Avenue.
The reindeer, named Comet and Cupid, ate a mixture of oats, minerals, and deer antlers (which helps to grow their own sets) as they were attached to Santa’s sled and available for pictures from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. outside of Gallery 92 West.
“We had to go all the way to the North Pole to get them,” Rod Gross, owner of Gross Belgians out of Lincoln, joked about his reindeer.
Did you know the town of Arlington wasn’t always known by that name?
Or that the small community of Fontanelle once was home to a college?
Or what led to the demise of a town called DeSoto?
Arlington area resident Kathy Buhrman learned all these things and more when writing and compiling photos for an Images of America series book called “Washington County.”
The 128-page book provides a pictorial history of the county’s early days. Photos include one taken in 1915 of a car dealership in Arlington, the rubble after a tornado tore through the town of Herman in 1899 and a tall schoolhouse in Kennard.
Buhrman’s own interests led to her writing the book.
“I’ve always enjoyed writing and history and I love family history and so it was just a natural progression. When Arcadia approached me to write the book I thought, ‘why not?’” she said.
Buhrman had to research the area’s history and find photographs that would tell the story. She wanted to show the pioneer spirit.
“I tried to represent all of the old communities — at least mention them,” she said. “I hope I did everybody justice.”
Buhrman, who works for the Rustler Sentinel newspaper, spent more than a year the book project, working on it part time.
She said Arcadia has a format for the books and captures towns and their histories through them.
The Washington County book is meant to be an overview — like a snapshot of the community, she said.
Through the book, readers learn that explorers, trappers and fur traders came to this area.
So did settlers whose ancestors were German, Danish and other nationalities. Folks arrived here by steamboat, wagon teams or even on foot. They built sod houses and log homes.
“I really enjoyed showcasing Washington County as a whole,” Buhrman said. “I enjoy that when you open each chapter you get a little bit of their history, and that’s important to preserve.”
She learned more about the towns and how the county grew.
For instance, Arlington was known as Bell Creek. That’s because a man named James Bell fell into a creek.
“It became Arlington, because Bell Creek was too close to the name of Battle Creek and so they had to change its name,” she said.
Fontanelle had the first college called Nebraska University. The first college building was completed in 1858. In 1865, it burned down. It was rebuilt, but burned again and a decision not to rebuild was made.
“The school was disbanded in 1870 and began a new life as Doane College in Crete, Nebraska,” the book states.
In her book, Buhrman said four towns owe their existence to the railroad: Blair, Arlington, Herman and Kennard.
DeSoto was a town situated about six miles north of Fort Calhoun. Buhrman said it didn’t grow, because of a change with the railroad.
The Arcadia Publishing book is available online at Amazon or at www.arcadiapublishing.com website or the Washington County Historical Association, 402-468-5740.
This is Buhrman’s first book and she plans to write more.
In the meantime, Buhrman hopes readers enjoy the Washington County book.
“I hope they find it interesting and want to learn more about history,” Buhrman said.
While every shift of the Fremont Police Department keeps busy, officers patrolling Saturday likely weren’t expecting to have much of their morning and early afternoon monopolized by responding to instances of cars being broken into.
From 6 a.m. through 12:30 p.m., two officers with the department responded to five complaints of Fremont residents having their vehicles broken into and valuables being taken, Lt. Ed Watts said Monday afternoon during an interview with the Tribune.
At 6 a.m., an officer responded to the 1700 block of North Hancock Street in regard to $150 of personal items being taken from an unlocked vehicle. At 8:45 a.m., police responded to the 1500 block of North Hancock Street after $180 in personal items was taken from an unlocked vehicle.
At 9:30 a.m, police responded to the 1300 block of East 19th Street in regard to an unknown person or persons breaking into a locked parked vehicle and taking $65 worth of personal items. Twenty minutes later, police responded to the 1300 block of East 19th Street in regard to somebody breaking into a locked parked vehicle, resulting in $200 worth of damage to the vehicle and $245 of personal items being taken.
Lastly, at 12:30 p.m., law enforcement was dispatched to the 300 block of East 17th Street in reference to two vehicles being broken into at the same residence. Eighty dollars comprised of small bills and loose change was taken, Watts said.
“We think that it’s likely that the same person or persons committed these offenses,” Watts said. “Just because it was all the same type of random personal stuff taken, several thefts happened in the same areas and it all took place on Saturday around the same time; so that would make sense.”
As always, police encouraged people to be diligent in terms of removing valuable items from vehicles and locking doors at all times when the vehicle is unattended.
“We encourage people to lock doors to vehicles if they are parked on a side street or in a driveway,” Watts said. “We encourage people to remove all items from their cars, especially high-dollar items and items related to work. And if you do leave items in your car, don’t leave them in plain sight where somebody might be tempted to break in.”
Watts added that there are no known suspects at this time. Anybody with any information regarding these crimes is being asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 402-727-4002. Tipsters can remain anonymous.