Oma Sue's Blog
Hi – I’m Sue Reyzlik. I recently realized my life-long dream of building a writing hut in the backyard. The writing hut serves as a creative space and home office for Oma Publishing. This blog will be intermingled with family history, varied experiences and insights on being a Grandma (Oma), creating my special backyard space, as well as, my “retirement” career as a self-publisher of children’s stories. And perhaps a little bit on the 32 years I served as Executive Director for Keep Fremont Beautiful and the wonderful people who are sharing this adventure.
In the fall of 1986, I was asked to go to lunch. There were four of us sitting at a table in the K.C.’s Restaurant on Park Avenue just south of Military Avenue. The restaurant was a popular spot for business and social lunch meetings. I’m sure people must have stopped and said hello, but with the intervening 30 plus years, I only recall the rather intense sales pitch.
Patti and Cherrie were telling me of their memories of the grand pageantry of the old-time 4th of July programs that Samuel Berek had produced for so many years. They talked of the Centennial Celebration for our town of Fremont in 1956. They explained what an interesting and historically important character John C. Fremont had been in finding a path to the west in our expanding country.
They talked of the negative feeling in our town and how a three-day celebration, similar to Nebraskaland Days in North Platte, could bring our community together. I remember thinking, it couldn’t hurt.
My expertise was in promotion and by the end of the lunch I had volunteered my services. I would be happy to assist in helping to organize and promote what would become John C. Fremont Days.
Shortly after the lunch, the fourth woman determined that work obligations would keep her from assisting with the formation of the JCF Days organization. It was us three – Patti, Cherri and Sue who would develop the organization and get the festival started.
Cherrie traveled to North Platte and visited with the organizers of the Nebraskaland Days. Their organizational portfolio system made sense and had already proven successful in their community – it remained to be seen if the plan could be replicated in a similar fashion here in Fremont.
Patti had researched the historical elements of the founding of Fremont and the lifetime accomplishments of our name sake John C. Fremont. Local, as well as, regional historians added their own expertise in creating living history programs and activities.
There were a few elements that were prioritized in that first year: The Chautauqua Tent, The Historical Encampments, The Children’s Festival at Barnard Park, Civil War Encampments and War Re-enactments, Native American Lectures and Demonstrations, A Beer Garden and Public Dance, Arts and Crafts Vendors in the Park, Historical Parade, Historical Tours, Train Rides and even some Sporting Events. A John C. Fremont re-enactor was essential as was historically correct costumes.
Once the idea was put forth, we scheduled a community meeting. Patti and Cherrie did a good job of selling the idea of a community festival to our fellow citizens. Volunteers came forward to assist with the planning and implementation. People who had been involved with individual civic organizations or church groups, ventured beyond their comfort zone and took on major tasks on a very public stage.
Those nine months (not even a full year) of planning and development were a whirl wind of activity and emotions. Those months tested the collective will, strength, determination and cooperation of Cherrie, Patti and myself. It wasn’t always a pretty or smooth process, but in the end, the festival was a success. Hundreds of individuals came together and did their part to make that first John C. Fremont Days an amazing community festival.
You know what’s even more amazing? Hundreds of people still come together and create a wonderful weekend of festival activities. We still celebrate our name sake and we invite thousands of people to come to our town and see what we have to offer.