History center presents people’s choice award for Christmas tree display


Family and Christmas mean a lot to Becky and Lester Urbain.

When the Freetown couple found out about the Festival of Trees at the Jackson County History Center in Brownstown, they decided it was a perfect opportunity to display two of their favorite things.

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The theme for the inaugural Christmas tree display was “A Few of My Favorite Things.” Starting Oct. 2, people could take an artificial or real tree to the livery barn at the center, 105 N. Sugar St., to decorate with ornaments and lights based on the theme.

Between Dec. 2 and Jan. 6, the public could visit the display and cast their vote for the people’s choice award. The display also was available to view during the town’s Hometown Christmas event and the history center’s Christmas in the Village event and when Santa Claus was at the livery barn.

The Urbains recently learned they were the top vote-getters, and they went to the livery barn to pick up their award, an ornament to add to their tree.

“I had never been involved in setting up anything like this before, so I just found it interesting, and I enjoyed all of the trees because finding out what other people like was interesting,” Becky said. “I just enjoy Christmas, and I just enjoyed sharing my tree.”

There were 13 trees eligible to receive votes, and another 12 were set up for people to look at while visiting the livery barn during the holiday season.

Several individuals decorated trees based on their interests, including jewelry and handmade doilies. Others were made by local school and community groups, including FFA, 4-H, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and German Club.

“We had such a good mix, and we’ve heard from other businesses and stuff that maybe they will do it next year,” said Margo Brewer, a history center volunteer.

Gloria Cross, another history center volunteer, said around 500 people visited the display during Hometown Christmas on Dec. 3 and another 300 saw it other times.

“We had all of the third-grade and fourth-grade classes come in from Brownstown,” Brewer said. “I brought my family in to see it, and I’m sure the rest of us brought people in to see it because it was available when there was somebody here. If anybody wanted to come see it, they could.”

In decorating their tree, Becky said they put strings of red and white lights and about a dozen strands of bubble lights on at home.

“This tree represents (Lester) actually because when we first got married, he wanted these lights, the bubble lights,” she said. “He always says they remind him of his boy kid days because he always went to see his grandparents and they had those.”

When they got married, Becky said she started with one strand and has added to that ever since. There are seven lights on one strand.

“Grandma, the ones she had, they were oil-filled back then,” Lester said. “These here are not actually oil-filled, but I just liked them and have been in love with them ever since.”

Then they took the tree to the livery barn and put the decorations on the tree. Becky’s sister, Claudette Fereday, helped with that task.

“My sister just recently moved back here from Maryland, so this was something that we could do together,” Becky said.

The decorations included a few dozen Thomas Kinkade ornaments Becky has collected over the years, bows, music boxes and plastic candy canes.

“I combined the two between his love of the lights and then my love of the ornaments,” Becky said.

There also were several unique items around the tree.

That included a pedal car.

“My mother, who is now 79 years old, that was theirs, and my grandparents saved it all of these years, and then we as kids used it, and they actually gave it to me,” Becky said.

“A friend of mine several years ago redid it,” Lester said. “It didn’t look like that when she got it.”

There also were wrapped presents, a soldier made out of flowerpots, a ceramic Nativity scene from Becky’s mother’s ceramic shop in Orleans and Becky’s collection of old-world Santas, including one as a tree topper.

The theme for the second Festival of Trees will be “My Favorite Color.”

“If I do it next year, it will probably be in blue,” Becky said. “The bubble lights will still be there, but (the rest of the lights) will probably be blue. Actually, I normally do it in blue. I just chose something different this year.”