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High turnout for Christmas Walk

Businesses and community leaders reported high turnout for the annual Christmas Walk in downtown Fremont this weekend, citing warm weather and a broad array of events that were unhampered by an evening drizzle.

The Christmas Walk is a downtown Fremont tradition where downtown businesses offer dozens of festive events, entertainment, food and deals throughout the day.

The event, which, as of last year, takes place on Small Business Saturday, generated heavy traffic along the Main Street corridor, several businesses told the Tribune. And a light rain later in the night didn’t stop this year’s new Christmas tree lighting event. That was followed up with other evening events, like a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Claus, a photo opportunity with live reindeer and free horse-drawn carriage rides from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

“We got a little bit of rain towards the evening time frame, but we were able to kick off Santa and Mrs. Claus coming into town, and do the tree lighting ceremony, and start the carriage rides just prior to some of that little inclement weather that started to come in,” said Shannon Mullen, executive director of MainStreet of Fremont, which coordinated the event. “I know that the carriage rides were great and we may have to add an additional carriage next year.”

Earlier in the day, temperatures hovered in the 50s. That, combined with a festive atmosphere, offerings of holiday treats, music and discounts, brought shoppers out to local businesses.

Over at the Wise Old Owl gift shop, the warm weather meant the doors were left open to streams of shoppers. The windows outside were painted with holiday scenes, contributing to the festive wreaths and lights adorning light posts and other businesses down Main Street.

Co-owner Tom Ender said all of that contributed to the store’s “best day ever.”

“Last year’s Christmas Walk was our best day ever — and this year’s Christmas Walk was our best day ever,” Ender said. “I think it was well coordinated this year. I think there’s a vibe going on with Fremont downtown, with all the lights on our buildings. I think the weather had a big part in it. And I think that people were just pleased to be in downtown Fremont and see all the different things going on.”

Sandra Murray, one of the owners of Fia + Belle also reported a strong showing. She added that the store saw a number of customers from Omaha, as well.

The store featured hot chocolate, Christmas music and caramel corn alongside specials throughout the day. In the evening, the store had a visit from the Grinch.

Murray says that the downtown events like the Christmas Walk, or the fall festival earlier this year, bring a noticeable boom to business. But the heavy turnout is part of a greater, more general trend, Murray believes more attention to downtown Fremont in general, driven by increased foot traffic and more visits from Midland University students than in past years.

“I feel like the downtown has really started picking up — people are starting to come back,” she said.

Over at the May Brothers Building, Milady Coffee House also had one of its busiest days on record, said owner and incoming councilman Glen Ellis.

The store featured a Christmas Artisan Market featuring a dozen vendors, a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Claus, who offered photo opportunities alongside a vintage 1940s sleigh. Milady also hosted the last event of the night: a performance from the band Fremonts and Bottle Tops, who, originally from Fremont, brought out a solid hometown crowd to close out the night, Ellis said.

“It was just a great way to kind of wrap up the day,” he said.

Ellis said that the addition of more events in the evening helped ensure that the busy foot traffic along the corridor kept going until late.

Mullen said that MainStreet of Fremont will be looking at ways to further increase attention to the event in upcoming years.

“We always are looking for feedback from visitors and attendees as well as downtown merchants, and so they’re always welcome to share their feedback on how we can make the event better,” she said. “It takes a village to make it happen.”

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Hooper plans holiday celebration

Santa will be there.

And, weather permitting, so will ponies and even Barbie, the miniature horse.

All will be part of the Hooper Main Street Extravaganza set from 4-7 p.m. Dec. 2.

The public is invited to the annual holiday event in the small community about 17 miles north of Fremont.

Activities begin with Mrs. Santa Claus and story time and a treat, starting at 4 p.m. in the Hooper Library.

Free LaRue’s Little Horse Ranch Pony Rides are set from 4:30-5:30 p.m. downtown.

Boy Scout Troop 164 will host a chili feed with desserts and Girl Scouts will have cookie decorating from 5-7 p.m. in the Hooper Over 60 Center. The events are free; a freewill donation will be accepted for the chili feed.

The Hooper Care Center will have a bonfire with hot chocolate and all the fixings to make s’mores from 4-6 p.m.

At 5:30 p.m., Santa is scheduled to arrive by firetruck at the Hooper Over 60 Center.

Barbie, the miniature horse should make an appearance in downtown Hooper, for the holiday event as well.

The small horse is about 28 inches tall at the shoulder.

Cecil Hocking of Hooper owns the reddish, brown horse, who has been a hit at past downtown Christmas events.

Children know and love Barbie, Hocking said in a past Tribune article.

To add to the festive mood, downtown businesses are encouraged to light up their storefronts for the Hooper Main Street Holiday Decorating Contest. The winner will receive a poinsettia from the Hooper Chain of Friends group.

The holiday event is sponsored by the Chain of Friends along with the Boy Scout troop and Hooper Care Center.

Roxanne Meyer of the Hooper Chain of Friends hopes area residents will come to the event.

“Everyone is welcome to attend,” Meyer said. “We had a really nice young family come from Herman. They really enjoy Hooper and had some nice comments about our event and we were glad to see them.”

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Couple loses home in Thanksgiving night fire

Mark and Edythe Schultz were celebrating Thanksgiving with family in Omaha when it happened.

They got a call from the Dodge County Sheriff’s Department. The Fremont area couple rushed back home.

Their house was on fire.

“We could see the flames coming over the top of the house,” she said.

Fremont Rural Assistant Fire Chief Carl Nielsen said the call came in shortly after 9 p.m. Thursday regarding the home west of Arlington.

“When we arrived, it was a fully involved structure fire,” Nielsen said. “It was a total loss.”

About 25 firefighters went to the scene. Fremont Rural and other departments responded.

“At the time the call came in, we did not know if anybody was inside or not; there were a few cars in the driveway so we had Fremont Fire respond with an ambulance and we also had Arlington (volunteer) respond with manpower,” Nielsen said. “We had deputies at the scene run the (license) plates of the vehicles in the driveway and then they made contact with the family.”

Firefighters learned nobody was home at the time of the fire.

Nielsen said it took firefighters about an hour to get the blaze under control, adding that it was a difficult fire to extinguish.

Firefighters were at the scene until shortly after 1 a.m. The fire later rekindled and they had to return just before 6 a.m. and stayed until 10 a.m. Friday.

No injuries to humans were reported.

“They said there were cats, but I don’t know if the cats got out,” Nielsen said. “When dispatch got a hold of them (the Schultzes) they said there were some cats on the back porch — but the back porch was gone at that time.”

Edythe Schultz told the Tribune that she and her husband had rescued a litter of four kittens from a feral cat.

“We were at the point where we were calling the vet about shots (for the kittens),” she said.

The 5-month-old kittens included one that was black named Coal; Spitz — a white kitten with a dark gray tail and spots on its head; Junior — a long-haired white and gray kitten, who looked like his mom; and Tiger — a tiger-striped gray kitten.

“We did not find any remains from the cats, but we haven’t seen them yet. We’re hopeful that they’re somewhere, but we don’t know that,” she said.

As for the couple, Schultz said the Red Cross has provided some help. The couple is staying at the Holiday Inn in Fremont. Other people have offered to help.

And despite the loss of keepsakes and other items, the Schultzes are grateful they are safe.

“Everybody is healthy and fine,” she said. “We just have to keep trying to move forward. I keep telling myself, ‘It was just stuff.’”

They’re waiting to talk to an insurance adjuster.

“Thanksgiving will have additional memories from now on — not necessarily good ones, but they’ll be there,” she added.

Nielsen also noted the difficulty of losing a home at this time of year.

“It’s a bad deal on Thanksgiving,” Nielsen said. “Anytime, it’s a bad deal to lose your home, but especially during the holidays is tough.”