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Small town hospitality and the Christmas spirit

December 11, 2010

The North Platte Valley Historical Association described last weekend as “all about small town hospitality and the Christmas spirit.”

I’d have to agree.

There’s a lot of really unique stuff to do around here over the holidays.

“Museum row” in Gering had simultaneous, free, family-friendly holiday events last Saturday, as they do every year.

The Farm And Ranch Museum (I didn’t get pictures) at their High Plains Christmas celebration had a homegrown / handmade craft fair, horse-drawn hayrack rides, marshmallows and a campfire, and the highlight: hearty, warm, bean soup meals. I missed the part where kids were writing letters to Santa Claus, and a PONY EXPRESS RIDER (how cool is that?!??) arrived to pick them up and deliver them to Santa Claus himself, who was hanging out in the miniature-building village set up in the Gering Civic Center parking lot.

Scotts Bluff National Monument hosted Christmas on the Prairie with an artist demonstration and music by the Village Players in one room . . .

And a Christmas tree in the gift shop area, with a buffalo-skin rug underneath that was absolutely covered in popcorn, thanks to volunteers in period outfits helping children string a popcorn garland for the tree.

I went into the back room where there were more children’s activities, but I didn’t take any pictures. It was happy chaos. Volunteers sat at tables covered with craft supplies and helped kids make decorations that might have been made back in the day: a string of dried foods for the birds, a covered wagon ornament, paper chains, and painted dough ornaments.

Dough ornaments were added to the tree in the gift shop, joining handmade ornaments from years past, like this one:

This purty ornament was made from a slice of corn cob and some pheasant feathers.

Apparently there were leftover pheasant feathers last year. A hunter had donated some pheasant wings, so the feathers could be used as decoration. The “ick factor” prevented some people from using the feather supplies.

Wouldn’t have dissuaded me any. I plucked some pretty feathers from a couple of mallards husband shot last weekend (on his second hunting trip ever). Not sure what I’ll do with them yet, but they were too pretty to throw away.

Speaking of ornaments, next comes my favorite part of the weekend holiday tour: Trees Along the Trail at the North Platte Valley Museum.

Here’s the jist: area nonprofit organizations can place and decorate a Christmas tree inside the museum. Visitors can purchase tickets at $1 apiece and vote for their favorite trees. The vote money is split 50-50 between the charity and the museum.

I can’t seem to find specific information about how long the contest runs (until Christmas?). I’m assuming from what I’ve read that the museum is waiving the usual admission charge, and raising funds from the voting instead. The hours for the museum appear to be the same (9 to 4 Monday through Friday), but with additional winter hours from 1-4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday during the contest only.

I love this event for three reasons. One, raising funds for charities is great. Two, the people decorating the trees get to have fun and be creative. And three, the museum doesn’t take itself so seriously as to proscribe having extraneous holiday bric-a-brac scattered amongst its displays. (As I mentioned in a previous post, if the Halloween event of years past were to recur, I would totally be there!)

Here come the pictures. I’ll try to mention the nonprofit organization the tree belongs to, if I can remember. But these are best viewed in person, in their “natural habitat” scattered amongst the museum pieces. Get yourself out there if you haven’t already!

Tree, meet old player piano. This tree is “stepping out for heart health.”

Telegraph operator . . . meet the Midwest Theater tree, which is MADE OF FOLDED MOVIE POSTERS!!!

This one’s obvious.

The VFW has clusters of remembrance poppies on their tree. Nice.

The Discovery Center has a very lively tree. It was hard to decide what to focus on. Then I spotted the baluchithere. A Christmas tree with the world’s largest extinct mammal on it, decorated with glitter? Win!

The Farm And Ranch Museum has a tree made out of horseshoes, but this fun vintage potato sack snagged my interest instead.

This is from the Gering Kiwanis. The tree is decorated with photos that are decorated with stickers, some of them quite humorously.

Festival of Hope tree.

The Gering Merchants Association tree included a little something from the Gering Bakery. The Gering Bakery also supplies the Bluffs Bakery, which is just down the street from my office and partly responsible for my recent weight gain. (Mmmmm . . . pastries. Wait! I mean “Yuck, I don’t like pastries!”)

Glass sugarbeet ornaments?! I want one! I forget who decorated this tree. It was a farming-related financial institution, and the funds were to benefit a children’s charity.

Here’s the top of the North Platte Valley Artist Guild tree. Chic, non?

I thought the Los Guagalupanos dancers’ tree was the best, most colorful and simplest reflection of its organization. Yes, those are chili pepper lights. For some reason, my camera refused to focus on this tree.

I reckon the tree that’s going to win this year is the one in the Garlock Cabin. Or, rather, the one taking OVER the Garlock Cabin. It’s a teddy bear invasion!!!

The Scott’s Girls Questers have a lot of fun details in their display.

Goldilocks and the three bears . . .

Teddy bear picnic . . .

“Bare spot”? A-HA-HA-HA-HA!

Also amidst the displays is the most unusual manger scene . . . along the Oregon Trail! (Look! There’s an angel hovering over the Wildcat Hills!)

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

UPDATE: Farm And Ranch Museum joined forces with the former North Platte Valley Museum to become Legacy of the Plains Museum at 2930 Old Oregon Trail in Gering. See the Legacy of the Plains Museum website for the most recent updates.

Copyright 2010 by Katie Bradshaw

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 13, 2010 9:08 pm

    Great job!

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