“Christmas memories” to highlight the fantasy of the museum’s trees


Mark Jackson Burt County Plaindeal

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

“Fantasy of Trees” opens on Sunday evening, November 20. Halls in the museum’s three campus exhibit buildings will feature Christmas trees decorated by area residents. The tour is best known as the candlelight tour because almost all the lighting in the buildings is provided by the glow of the trees. The event marks the 30th year the museum has presented a special opening night on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

Self-guided tours run from 6-8 p.m., following the citywide Thanksgiving Service and Soup Supper at the Presyterian Church.

No admission is charged for visiting the museum, but donations are accepted. Visitors can start in one of three buildings: the EC Houston House, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places; the house is; or the Nolana school building. Adults are requested to accompany their children.

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

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

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

Almost every room in all three buildings has a tree decorated with the general theme of “Christmas memories”.

In the lobby of the main house, Vicki Ahmann and Carol Ahmann start the show with “Memories of Christmas Past”. The imposing tree evokes memories of yesteryear.

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

Over in the bay window, “Christmas Dress”, by Leanne Dorathy continues the wintry atmosphere. The fulsome tree is trimmed all in red, green and white with vintage ornaments. The key to the exhibit 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.

On the fireplace mantle, the theme continues with neatly hung red and white stockings.

In the dining room, visitors are treated to “Christmas 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 porcelain cabinet that once belonged to Marietta Jack’s parents, Fred and Blanche Morehouse. The object was donated to the museum by the family of Gary Jack.

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

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

In the Professional Room, Cottonwood Clinic staff exhibit “Music is Medicine.” 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, Elise and Maddox Camron offer museum visitors “Christmas Joy”. The rustic-themed display fills the room with gnomes, gingerbread men, and even penguins lounging in the tub.

In the farm room, retired Tekamah-Herman teachers Joan Andrew, Joyce Ferguson, Pam Tonjes and Jaccie Mencke have “Candyland.” As one would expect, the tree and expansive display area all bear a design inspired by the classic board game.

Megan and Annette Tomasiewicz decorated the basement kitchen.

Museum staff decorated the staircase leading to the ground floor with “cookies for Santa”, using a variety of old-fashioned cookie cutters to set the theme. The display also includes vintage, full-color front pages from area newspapers, one of which is over 100 years old.

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

In the living room, Tara Sick and Elise Camron think of “Sugar Plum Wishes”. The white tree bears pastel ornaments representing treats from years ago. As in the past, the fair will also host the NE-Brass-ka Brass Quintet. Gary and Sharon Fugman, David Rush, Jeff Mount and Roger Gill will play a variety of holiday favorites throughout the evening.

In the child’s room, Omahan Jayne Palmer and Darla Nelson from Oakland offer an exhibition called “Memories of Sweden”. Dala horses are of course part of the ornaments, as are wicker reindeer and stars. A scroll-cut star serves as a treetop

In the master bedroom, Meggan King exhibits “Photos of Christmas Past”.

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 a garland which is an old skipping rope. The tree is topped with a star made of Tinkertoys.

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

Back on the second floor, the hallway offers “Our Christmas memories”, thanks to the decorations of Patty Bartels. The pencil tree is decorated with family photos, homemade snowflakes and holiday-themed paper chains.

The library presents “Sew Many Memories”, the work of Linda Bisanz. The three table trees in the room are decorated with hand-sewn ornaments. The star at the top of the central shaft is made of zippers, for example.

Upon exiting, the visitor may notice a handmade wreath with cutouts of boots and shoes adorning the doorway.

Down the back stairs, the tree that honors the memory of Hoot Gibson – the Tekamah native who became a world champion cowboy and Hollywood movie star – says, “Remember When.”

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

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

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

In the East House, the tour continues to 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”.

In contrast to the Pioneer Gallery, Tekamah-Herman FFA has “Remembering the Past, Growing for the Future”.

The ground floor military room is decorated by the Logan Valley Quilt Guild. The bravery quilts donated on Veterans Day are central to the decorations.

In the fireplace room, three-generation decorators, Cindy Nun and Chris Buchholz, base their display around the seasonal staple “Woodland Christmas.” The woodland theme extends from the wooden ornaments of the tree to the fireplace where fur-trimmed stockings hang awaiting a treat on Christmas morning.

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

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

In the lobby, Jeannene Schutt of Cedar Bluffs displays “magical Christmas memories.”

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

Upstairs in the nursery, Carissa Oligmueller and Christine Smutney also perform “Cherished Christmas Memories.”

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

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

Sabina Cameron and her children Daisy, Jonathan, Katelyn and Lily have the sewing room decorated with the theme “Homemade Christmas memories”.

Back downstairs in the kitchen, Janelle Taylor and Christi Drey from 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 reception room is decorated by Tekamah Garden Club. Their tree, the cabinet of curiosities next to it and everything else in the room is dedicated to the theme “Feel like a kid again this Christmas”. The whole room is decorated with a variety of toys, including a miniature train donated in memory of Mike Schutt. The lights on the tree, its popcorn garland, and Shiny Brite ornaments all capture the playful feel.

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


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