Hallmark Founder Joyce C. Hall Hailed from David City

A Christmas tree lighting was held in David City last week. (Photo by Allison Mollenkamp, NET News)
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November 6, 2019 - 6:45am

Christmas is still weeks away and the small town of David City, Nebraska, is already in the Christmas spirit. A famous former resident and a visit from the Hallmark channel prompted the city to have Christmas in October. 

The day the Hallmark Channel came to David City, Christmas is still weeks away, but you wouldn’t know it to look at the crowd. A cold snap brought out hats and gloves, and even some Christmas-themed dog outfits. Residents were excited to get into the holiday spirit.

“Just seeing the whole community come together, it’s been a long process for the whole week, so to finally see it all in production and done is gonna be great,” said Mandy Topil. She came to the David City Christmas event with her family. She and her husband were two of many local residents who made the event possible.

“I’m on the ag society for here at Butler County, and so we kind of helped with the shuttle parking out at the fairgrounds and the restrooms are open out at the fairgrounds," Topil said. "And we both work in David City so different portions of our jobs have filled the streets, I guess.”

The streets were quite full. A huge children’s choir sang carols, people waited in line for cupcakes and popcorn. Kids decorated cookies and tap dancers grinned against the bitter cold.

It wasn’t always meant to be such a huge event. Kelcie Keeling is the executive director for the Butler County Chamber of Commerce and Butler County Development.

“They actually contacted the Butler County Development, they contacted our mayor about a year ago," Keeling said. "They were just going to film a family walking down the street of historic downtown David City.”

But why would the Hallmark channel choose David City to film in, out of the whole country? Hallmark’s founder was a Nebraskan.

“We are the birthplace of Joyce C. Hall," Keeling said. "He was born in the late 1890’s and actually lived here to about 10, 11 years old. He is the founder of Hallmark Cards.”

After his time in David City, Hall moved to Norfolk, and eventually to Kansas City, where he founded what would become Hallmark Cards. Hall and his brothers started selling post cards during a fad in the early 1900s. Despite the company’s fame, Hall isn’t all that famous in David City.

“It’s kind of unknown," Keeling said. "I believe I’ve heard that there was a sign out on the highway, right when you come off of highway 92, and I think it was worn and disrepair, that it has been taken down. So our next objective is to really highlight those that are from David City.”

Keeling thinks Hall’s business success may have come from his time in David City.

“Part of me feels yes, his entrepreneurship and because he also had some tough times growing up, maybe that entrepreneurship he gained because he was from here," Keeling said.

Eventually one family walking down the street turned into a larger contribution from Hallmark Channel. The company donated money for new lights and Christmas decorations in town, ones that will be used for years to come.

But local residents had a large hand in the event too. They worked with Hallmark channel reps to put together an event that felt true to the town.

“We just talked about the vision that we would expect or that we thought would be ideal in David City," Keeling said. "Yes, we are a community of less than 3,000 people. We have two schools. Lots of positive things ongoing here. And lots of great growth.”

David City’s downtown has been experiencing some growing pains the past couple years.

“We’ve been under construction for several years," Keeling said. "Sewer and new cement work and a lot of brick work that took a couple times to get it right, so a lot of the businesses have been hurting because of the construction.”

Many of those business are already covered in Christmas decorations, and the extra foot traffic from the Hallmark event could be good for business. Organizers project attendance was near 5,000 people. Some, like Steve Minino and his family, drove out specifically for the event.

“We actually live in Omaha. We thought it would be a really fun opportunity to come out and see David City and it was a good time to just get in the car, take a drive out here," Minino said. "We as a family really, really enjoy the holidays, so it’s kind of like, why not get this kicked off early? It just seemed like a really good idea.”

The event will give David City publicity even farther afield than Omaha.

Pam Slay is a senior vice president for Crown Media, which owns the Hallmark Channel. She says Hallmark wanted to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their “Countdown to Christmas” TV program.

“We were looking for a way to give back to communities and bring communities back together and give people as much joy and spirit as they give us at Christmas," Slay said. "So we thought that David City would be the best ever first stop for Hallmark Channel’s hometown Christmas, which is what we call this program.”

The event was filmed by Hallmark Channel videographers, and will eventually air on national TV.

The decorations attracted one very important visitor to David City, and he got an introduction from the town’s mayor, Alan Zavodny.

“Santa is making his very first visit of the 2019 Christmas season here in David City tonight!”

The rest of Nebraska will have some catching up to do this year to match the holiday spirit in David City.



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