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.”