Tag Archives: Mary Beth Harrold

Christmas Caravan Comes Home

November 5, 2019 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

On a humid August afternoon, among autumn decor and the scent of pumpkin spice wafting through her home, Mary Beth Harrold, 70, sat with her crew at the kitchen table plotting Christmas. The holidays arrive early in the red brick and tan house tucked away at 1402 Placid Lake Circle in Papillion, and the ladies know the importance of preparation. 

The past 18 years, Harrold and her three cohorts have designed one of four houses selected annually for the Christmas Caravan Tour of Homes, a fundraiser for the Assistance League of Omaha. The league donates to local community programs benefitting children and adults.

Harrold customizes holiday design plans for each home, handcrafting the decorations as needed. Planning begins months in advance with interviews; then items are purchased at the Dallas Market Center in Texas in January. It’s a team effort, and even the gals’ husbands lend a hand, loading and unloading decor. 

“Mary Beth is modest but she’s an excellent first-class designer,” co-worker Donna Wilcox explains. Wilcox, along with floral designer Mary Anne Hunter and the other women, puts hours into transforming homes for the holidays, especially the week leading up to the tour.

This season is unique because the caravan will include Harrold’s residence.

“It’s quite an honor. It’s the most beautiful time of the year. I just hope to make it to see the day,” Harrold says, her voice cracking.

Harrold has been receiving chemotherapy treatments after being diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma, a rare type of malignant cancer that starts in smooth muscle tissue. These tumors are most commonly found in the abdomen, as in Harrold’s case.

She found out on the busiest day of the year for Papillion Flower Patch, Harrold’s floral and gift shop. Although she awoke with bad stomach pain, this diligent owner still headed into her shop on Valentine’s Day, 2019. She was rushed to the hospital after it became too severe to ignore. Doctors removed a 10-pound tumor (stage 3) from her abdomen. 

Ignoring her symptoms was a mistake, she  confesses. “Back then, I didn’t know any better.”

Harrold has put love, dedication, and effort into growing her business the past 43 years.

When her husband, Jim, bought a barber shop, he also purchased the lot across the street for his wife’s new flower business. Now, Harrold is turning over the key and ownership to her daughter, Stephanie Crandall. She, along with sister Kim Vieth, spent many days after school at her mother’s business creating flower arrangements, even as little girls.

Crandall has worked side by side with her mother through all the Christmas Caravans. Although Harrold might be too weak to decorate, she plans to be on hand to supervise her team’s efforts.

She has worked tirelessly, and whenever Harrold hears groans or complaints about the huge task at hand, she reminds the ladies of her motto, “Nobody is a quitter.”

When thousands of people descend through the doors of Harrold’s home, an earthy, cozy winter scene will greet guests. This wintery dream is wrapped in pine cones, faux snow, and creamy candles. Even the kitchen table provides a frozen snapshot of a family about to serve Christmas dinner. The dinner plates are reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell scene, with a dog leaning out of a red 1950s truck on a majestic snowy day.   

Cardinals and holly berries bring small splashes of red to the décor while staying true to its natural aesthetic theme. The outside permeates the inside with whispers of silvery birch. Another kitchen piece is sprinkled with snowy pine as if plucked from her tree out front.

In addition, Harrold loves big show pieces such as a white vase holding an arrangement of bristly pine, thick branches, and sparkly gold bulbs. A glass case holds a miniature pine tree surrounded by forest, flora, and fauna. A faux wood log and pine cones lay across the fireplace mantel. Long sticks of birch, wrapped in clear lights, are placed on the ends. Other arrangements are artfully placed in ceramic bowls, decorated cups, and wire vases. Even mirrors are lined with iridescent tree limbs. The nature-inspired winter wonderland is sure to impress visitors young and old.

Paying guests can view artful décor upstairs and purchase holiday items downstairs in the boutique. The caravan is a way for the group to give a percentage of profits to fund Operation School Bell. This program, in partnership with JCPenney’s, helps local children in need purchase clothing, footwear, and books.   

“Maybe we will enjoy our family more. Business is not as important this year,” Crandall adds, with a meaningful look at her mother. Harrold wants to spend this season with her four grandchildren, daughters, and all her friends. As a bonus, Christmas is her birthday, giving the family one more reason to celebrate Harrold and her love of this special season.

The Christmas Caravan Tour of Homes is held November 7 from 10 a.m. to  8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased in advance for $16 or $20 at the door. A preview gala is scheduled the night before as well as a silent and oral auction at Champions Run Country Club. After the fundraiser, the ladies will return to Papillion Flower Patch for an open house sale over the weekend. 


This article was printed in the November/December 2019 edition of OmahaHome. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Mary Beth Harrold

October 16, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

For Mary Beth Harrold, “decking the halls” means something a tad more extravagant than outfitting a fir tree with antique Santa-themed artifacts. A long-time Papillion resident, Harrold has spent the last four decades doing what she loves: decorating homes.

Harrold started her company, Papillion Flower Patch, 40 years ago with a dream and minimal experience. She currently manages the store with the help of her daughter, Stephanie Crandall.

christmascaravan1“I had a love for beautiful home décor,” Harrold says of her conception for the business. “I had to learn with experience, and buy books, and get support. After that, I competed in contests and learned more to become a designer that traveled the United States.”

The most wonderful time of the year also happens to be Harrold’s busiest decorating season.

For the past 15 years, Harrold’s holiday home decorating style has been featured on the Christmas Caravan Tour of Homes, a fundraiser on the first Thursday of November (Nov. 3 this year) to benefit the Assistance League of Omaha. Preparation for the grand tour, Harrold explains, involves spending a full week prepping houses with fellow decorators and florists.

“It’s a lot of work because we have to build a shop in the basement from scratch,” Harrold says of the week-long frenzy. “Then we sell (products) from there.”

The Christmas Caravan gives attendees the opportunity to browse high-end homes decorated by local florists and interior designers, as well as purchase products from the vendors. 

Each house includes a boutique where attendees can purchase featured decorations. Twenty percent of revenue is donated to the Assistance League, with proceeds directly benefiting programs such as Operation School Bell (which has provided clothing to more than 58,000 Omaha children in need).

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Harrold prefers to design homes with winter in mind, as opposed to the Christmas holiday, so decorations can be used all season long.

“We put up our decorations the first week of November and they last long after Christmas,” she says. “So, I decorate in more warm, earthy, wintery tones so it lasts through the season.”

Harrold’s home on the Christmas Caravan tour demonstrates her philosophy of seasonal décor. Natural elements like pinecones, birch branches, holly berries, and sprigs of pine provide an ambiance of warm wintery tones despite the chill. Glowing candles halo Harrold’s stone figurine nativity set; the color palette of browns, earthy greens, and pale blues set each scene. The main piece on the dining room table features white branches, small cardinals, and a dusting of faux snow.

A collection of birch branches wrapped with clear lights, small logs, and large pinecones preface the main staircase—a greeting to anyone wandering in through the front door. Every room of the house, including the master bathroom, contains a subtle touch of Harrold’s woodsy holiday flair. And yes, there is the occasional, familiar snowman.

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“Cozy” is the word that would best describe the atmosphere of Harrold’s Christmas Caravan home, but it seems oddly over-simplistic for the attention to detail and artistic eye that clearly drove the decorating process. The consistency of design carries through even the most minimal of elements— towel racks, windows, bedroom shelves.

Harrold has decorated what she estimates to be hundreds of homes over the years, tailored specifically to her customers’ aesthetic tastes and desires.

“For the Christmas season, the glitz and glamor is gone,” she says of time’s passing decoration trends. “Now, (people prefer) the more natural, simple home look.”

The most rewarding part of the job, she says, is her relationship with customers. Harrold spends weeks leading up to the holiday season consulting with clients who often return each year for her decorating services.

“It’s fun to try to please a lot of different types of people and try out a bunch of different tastes,” Harrold says.

What about decorating her own home?

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“My decorations are very simple and not overly done,” Harrold explains. “I’m not a bright-color decorator, so the style is more subdued. I just like the closeness and the warmth of looking out at wintertime, and feeling cozy, and getting the thought of, ‘I love my house.’”

After all the good tidings and decking of halls, perhaps Harrold can enjoy a well-deserved day off on Christmas Day with her family. Afterwards, the preparations for next season will begin.

“Family is always the best part,” Harrold says with a smile. “I love the warmth and joy, and the feeling of happiness and love, that come with the holiday time.”

Visit alomaha.org for more information about the Christmas Caravan Tour of Homes. OmahaHome

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