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“Christmas Memories” to highlight museum’s Fantasy of Trees

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A mannequin models “The Christmas Dress,” part of Leanne Dorathy’s display for the Burt County Museum’s annual Fantasy of Trees exhibit. The self-guided tours start at 6 p.m. Sunday night, Nov. 20.

Burt County Museum will again turn into a holiday forest this winter, thanks to a legion of volunteers.

“Fantasy of Trees” opens Sunday night, Nov. 20. Rooms in all three display buildings on the museum campus will showcase Christmas trees decorated by area residents. The tour is best known as a candlelight tour because nearly all of the lighting in the buildings is provided by the glow from the trees. The event marks the 30th year the museum has featured a special evening opening on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

Self-guided tours run from 6-8 p.m., following the citywide Thanksgiving service and the soup supper at the Presyterian Church.

No admission is charged for the museum tour but donations are accepted. Visitors may begin in any of the three buildings: the E.C. Houston House, which is on the National Register of Historic Places; the East House; or the Nolana school building. Adults are asked to accompany their children.

Museum curator Bonnie Newell said 2022 marks the 37th year of holiday decorations at the museum’s main building, the E.C. Houston House and, like most years, 250-300 volunteers have helped with decorations.

“That includes all the school kids and club members who help make things for the tour,” Newell said. “We really appreciate all their help.”

High school students from Tekamah-Herman strung garland and bows around the outside of all three buildings.

Nearly every room in the three buildings has a tree decorated to the overall theme, “Christmas Memories.”

In the foyer of the main house, Vicki Ahmann and Carol Ahmann start the show with “Memories of Christmas Past.” The towering tree evokes memories of by-gone days.

On the way into the parlor, is a tree decorated by Becky Rogers’ first grade class at Tekamah-Herman Elementary decorated with the theme “Gnome Place Like Home for the Holidays.” The pencil tree features ornaments made by the children.

Over in the bay window, “Christmas Dress,” by Leanne Dorathy continues the wintry ambiance. The fulsome tree is trimmed all in red, green and white with vintage ornaments. The key to the display is the child’s red dress displayed on a mannequin. According to museum staff, Leanne and her sister both wore the dress, as did Leanne’s daughters.

Over on the fireplace mantel, the theme continues with red and white stockings hung with care.

In the dining room, visitors are treated to “Christmas Eve Memories, Dinner and Church,” decorated by Sam McMullen and Linda Farrens. As advertised, the room is trimmed in gold from the muted white tree to the formal dining table. The room also includes a new addition to the museum, a china cabinet that belonged to Marietta Jack’s parents, Fred and Blanche Morehouse. The item was donated to the museum by Gary Jack’s family.

The butler’s pantry is adorned with “Songs of Christmas Past,” offered by Cari Brodersen and Sarah Brodersen. The display features two families of carolers strolling among the trees.

The tour of the main house is then routed to the basement.

In the professional room, the staff at Cottonwood Clinic has “Music is Medicine,” on display. The whimsical tree carries a musical theme with ornaments, even the star atop the tree, made from pill bottle caps and specimen vials, among other medical items.

In the laundry room, Tara Sick and Elise and Maddox Camron treat museum guests to “Christmas Joy.” The rustic-themed display fills the room with gnomes, gingerbread men, even penguins lounging in the washtub.

In the farm room, retired Tekamah-Herman teachers Joan Andrew, Joyce Ferguson, Pam Tonjes and Jaccie Mencke have, “Candyland.” As one might suspect, the tree and the broad display area all carry a motif inspired by the classic board game.

Megan and Annette Tomasiewicz have decorated the basement kitchen.

Museum staff have decorated the stairway back up to the main floor with “Cookies for Santa,” using a variety of old-fashioned cookie cutters to set the theme. The display also includes antique front pages, in color, taken from area newspapers, one more than 100 years old.

The window seat of the main staircase leading to the second floor, decorated by Rosa Schmidt of Oakland, is titled, “An Old-Fashioned Christmas.”

In the sitting room, Tara Sick and Elise Camron are thinking of “Sugar Plum Wishes.” The white tree carries pastel ornaments depicting the sweet treats from years ago. As in the past, the sitting room also will feature the NE-Brass-ka Brass Quintet. Gary and Sharon Fugman, David Rush, Jeff Mount and Roger Gill will be playing a variety of holiday favorites throughout the evening.

In the child’s bedroom, Omahan Jayne Palmer and Darla Nelson of Oakland offer a display titled, “Memories of Sweden.” Dala horses are included among the ornaments, of course, as are wicker reindeer and stars. A scroll-cut star serves as the tree topper

In the master bedroom, Meggan King has “Pictures of Christmas Past,” on display.

In the toy room, Kim Jackson, Molly Braniff and Lilyann Willing call their creation, “Our Christmas Memories.” The ornaments are made from old toys, including garland that’s an old jump rope. The tree is topped by a star made of Tinkertoys.

In the third floor ballroom, there’s a party waiting to happen with “Memories of Christmas Eve,” where Marjorie Hoier, Abby Sheets and daughters Mylee, Maggie and Oakley have a dinner table set for four, hot chocolate awaits on the side tables, and then there’s the tree. A giant red bow tops the fulsome tree decorated in red and white.

Back down to the second floor, the hallway offers “Our Christmas Memories,” thanks to decorations by Patty Bartels. The pencil tree is decorated with family photos, homemade snowflakes and holiday colored paper chains.

The library features “Sew Many Memories,” the handiwork of Linda Bisanz. The room’s three tabletop trees are decorated with handsewn ornaments. The star atop the center tree is made from zippers, for example.

On the way out the door, the visitor may notice handmade garland featuring cutouts of boots and shoes adorning the doorway.

Down the back stairs, the tree that honors the memory Hoot Gibson­—the Tekamah native who went on to become a world champion cowboy and a Hollywood movie star­—says, “Remembr When.”

On the way to the country schoolhouse, Beverly Devening, has “1946 Thurman Family Christmas,” on the interior porch for the south exit. The display includes ornaments and toys from her family’s Christmas celebration when she was a little girl growing up in Omaha.

In the schoolhouse, items made by Burt County fourth graders decorate the room. The decorations this year are organized by Delta Kappa Gamma members. Carrie Braniff’s class at Tekamah-Herman provided tree ornaments made from old CDs. Sarah Smith’s class made the cut-out hand wreaths that are hung around the room. Students of Oakland-Craig fourth grade teachers Jen Anderson and Jane Nincehelser and art teacher Robert Burton created still life portraits of winter flowers. Kendra Boden’s fourth graders from Lyons-Decatur created the Grinch tree ornaments.

Much like the one-room schoolhouses of old, the evening will feature a recital from piano students of Molly Williams and Linda Rogers.

In the East House, tour picks up the Pioneer Gallery where the tree inside the northwest entrance decorated by the Mandyn Pruess and Amber Nun families has “Baby’s First Christmas Memories.”

At the opposite end of the Pioneer Gallery, Tekamah-Herman FFA has “Remembering the Past, Growing for the Future.”

The downstairs military room is decorated by the Logan Valley Quilt Guild. The Quilts of Valor donated in observance of Veterans Day are central to the decorations.

In the fireplace room, the three-generation decorators, Cindy Nun and Chris Buchholz, are basing their display around the seasonal staple “Woodland Christmas.” The woodsy theme spreads from the tree’s wooden ornaments to the mantel where fur-trimmed stockings hang waiting for a Christmas morning treat.

The dining room has a playful feel from Bob’s Crusaders, a Relay for Life group from Blair. Their “Christmas Memories” display includes a jigsaw puzzle on the dinner table, joined by the board game, “Blairopoly.” The tree features paper chains and bells depicting family names.

In the parlor, Lonnie Kay Mackie and Holly Mackie Jensen offer “Christmas Memories.” Nativity scenes and Christmas villages surround the tree adorned with large red and gold ornaments.

In the foyer, Jeannene Schutt of Cedar Bluffs has “Magical Christmas Memories,” on display.

In the front stairwell, Laura Kahlandt McElmuray and her daughters Elizabeth and Kahla, along with Angie Dundee, display “The First Christmas Memory.”

Upstairs in the child’s room, Carissa Oligmueller and Christine Smutney also are doing a take on “Cherished Christmas Memories.”

In the master bedroom, Ryann Pagels and daughter Emersyn greet guests with “Colorful Memories.”

In the military room, Mary and Marissa Ball have “Christmas With my Gnomies.” They are decorating the room with patriotic themes of red, white and blue topped by a starry ribbon above and a field of stars in the skirt below.

Sabina Cameron and her children Daisy, Jonathan, Katelyn and Lily has the sewing room decorated to the theme, “Homemade Christmas Memories.”

Back downstairs in the kitchen, Janelle Taylor and Christi Drey of Blair, are busy making “Cookies for Santa.”

The butler’s pantry is decorated by Judy Grothe and Mindy Mayberry and features a display of Boyd’s Bears figurines.

The welcome room is decorated by Tekamah Garden Club. Their tree, the curio cabinet next to it, and everything else in the room is dedicated to the theme, “Feel Like a Kid Again This Christmas.” The entire room is decorated with a variety of toys, including a model train donated in memory of Mike Schutt. The lights on the tree, its popcorn garland and Shiny Brite ornaments all pick up the playful feel.

The specially decorated rooms will remain on display throughout the Christmas season during regular museum hours, 1-5 p.m., Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Group tours can be arranged by calling the museum at 402-374-1505.

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