Reliving childhood memory with Nebraska Christmas lights road trip

Christmas in Nebraska
Tekamah’s main street lights

The Christmas season always brings back childhood memories. I grew up mostly in rural Nebraska towns. My hometown of Kennard had about 300 people when we lived there. My mom and dad (officially, step, but he was the best father anyone could ask for) married in 1970, so we moved to Oakland, with a population of about 1,300 at the time. We lived there for five years, before we moved to Fremont (about 20,000 people) where my dad worked.

My dad and mom – Marvin and Cecil

Back in my day (I just had to say that), people didn’t decorate their houses or yards like they do today. Instead, some houses might have lights strung around the porch. So, a family tradition we had was to drive around area communities to check out the lights and decorations on the main streets. Most towns had decorations on the light poles and some lights illuminating along the route.

We would take off between 5-6 p.m. on a weekend night and drive a circle, taking in 10-11 towns during a 6-hour drive. Those communities included Oakland (of course), Tekamah, Craig, Herman, Blair, Kennard, Arlington, Fremont, Hooper, Scribner and West Point. West Point was 14 miles from Oakland, so that was usually the last town before we’d head home.

I’ve missed those days, especially the older I get. I have always looked back at those trips as one of my best memories from my childhood.

So, Lisa and I decided to take our own trip down memory lane and make that drive. Living in Omaha, I briefly thought about adding other towns to the list, but decided I wanted to keep it as close to my memory as possible.

Nebraska Christmas

Fremont was our first stop  (I have family still living in Fremont). Downtown Fremont has candy canes adorning its light poles. We did deviate from my dad’s road trip, as we stopped in the towns and walked a bit, taking in window displays.

Nebraska Christmas
Window display

Since it was about dinner time, we grabbed a quick meal at Runza. After all, does anything say “Nebraska holiday road trip” than having a meal at a Nebraska original eatery? I passed on the chili and cinnamon rolls (a Husker state original) and went with an actual Runza.

Nebraska Christmas
Runza…A Nebraska treat

Fremont is known as the “White Light City.” So, the large tree in front of the library was decorated for the season.

Nebraska Christmas
Fremont’s white lights tree

On our way out of Fremont, we stopped at a farm implement store. They had equipment decorated with holiday lights. How cool is that?

Nebraska Christmas
Implement decoration

Hooper greeted visitors with a large star atop a hill, just off the highway.

Nebraska Christmas
Hooper star

Hooper’s main street featured a wreath. I love how towns decorate for the holidays.

Nebraska Christmas
Hooper downtown

As we walked Main Street, stores had window displays featuring winter themes and a Charlie Brown Christmas. We loved the creativity.

Nebraska Christmas
A “Peanuts” Christmas

Scribner may have been our favorite stop. A large light display greeted visitors to Main Street. Indeed, Seasons Greetings to you, Scribner.

Nebraska Christmas
Happy holidays from Scribner

The Scribner Bank was decked out for the season. It was an impressive display with garland and lit wreathes.

Nebraska Christmas
We love the bank’s decorations

Bells inside wreathes highlighted the light poles.

Nebraska Christmas
Street decor

West Point has a large Christmas tree in the middle of a downtown intersection. It was sturdy as a strong wind challenged it.

Nebraska Christmas
West Point

We loved a window display – “West Point or Elf” – that featured elves in various activities. From riding a Harley motorcycle to other things, the backdrop featured farm and store views.

Nebraska Christmas
Neat window display

Stopping in Oakland was special to me. My dad was proud of his Swedish heritage. The town is the “Swedish Capital” of Nebraska. Main Street shows that pride with Dala horses on the light poles. Wreathes featuring candles are proudly displayed above the Dalas.

Nebraska Christmas
Returning to where the annual lights drive started

My in-laws live in Tekamah, our next stop. The main street there featured snowflakes along the street.

In addition, Arbor Park was decorated for the holiday. From a small fir tree featuring holiday lights and a couple of gift box lights, the park was a nice view.

Nebraska Christmas

Blair’s business district has buildings with white light strings, as well as garland wrapped around the light poles.

Nebraska Christmas

We loved the tree display at City Hall.

Nebraska Christmas
Neat tree display

I was a little bummed that Kennard didn’t have any town lights along the two-block main street. Instead, the town has banners attached to the light poles.

Arlington was another community with a nice light display. My oldest sister and her family live here. The lights on the poles had a different design to them than the other communities. I liked it.

Nebraska Christmas
Arlington’s lights

A window display was among the most impressive we’ve seen this year. Polar bears near a candy cane pole with a tree in the background was subtle, but attractive. We both liked it a lot.

Nebraska Christmas
Polar bears

We enjoyed our small town holiday lights tour. It’s good to get out of the city and just take in what rural Nebraska and its smaller communities have to offer. It also met my expectations in reliving a childhood memory.

We hope you have a chance to participate in family traditions this season. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.