"Holiday in the National Parks" Celebrated at the White House
White House photo by Chris Greenberg
Contact: Adam Prato, (319) 643-7855
Ornaments from Herbert Hoover National Historic Site and Effigy Mounds National Monument are prominently displayed on this year’s official White House Christmas Tree. The tree is the centerpiece of elaborate decorations celebrating the theme of “Holiday in the National Parks.”
“It is an amazing honor for the National Park Service to be selected as the theme for the White House holiday decorations by the President and Mrs. Bush,” said National Park Service Director Mary A. Bomar. “Mrs. Bush is the best champion for our national parks, and the beautiful decorations in each state room showcase the natural and historical treasures found in parks throughout the country.”
The tree, located in the Blue Room, is adorned with handmade ornaments representing the country’s 391 National Park Service sites. “Each ornament on the magnificent 18-foot Fraser fir was designed by an artist selected by the park,” said Bomar. “The ornaments tell the stories of our parks, just as our parks tell the stories of our nation.”
During her tenure as Artist-in-Residence at Herbert Hoover National Historic Site this summer, Diane Blair Kunzler of Glidden, Iowa painted the nine-inch circumference gold ornament supplied by the White House with scenes of the Herbert Hoover Birthplace Cottage and the Gravesite of President and Mrs. Hoover. Ms. Kunzler has explored Midwestern landscapes as a subject for her artwork for twenty years.
Art teacher and former park ranger Christine Hall of Genoa, Wisconsin painted the ornament representing Effigy Mounds National Monument. The oil painting shows the Mississippi river and bluffs overlaid with the images of bear and bird shaped mounds that make up the “Marching Bear” group. Ms. Hall is the Education Director at Norskedalen Nature & Heritage Center, Coon Valley, Wisconsin, where she creates and teaches art.
On November 28, Ms. Kunzler and Ms. Hall attended a holiday reception at the White House hosted by First Lady Laura Bush who unveiled the theme of this year’s White House Christmas decorations. Mrs. Bush hosted the reception in the East Wing of the White House while Middle East peace talks were taking place in the West Wing. Mrs. Bush graciously praised the National Parks as the White House served a beautifully presented and delicious buffet, and the White House’s legendary eggnog. “The decorations were opulent and impressive,” said Ms. Hall. “The desserts were works of art that I felt guilty eating.”
The holiday displays incorporate the wide variety of natural, cultural, and recreational features preserved by the National Park Service. Models of icons such as the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and the Statue of Liberty share space with paintings of scenic vistas from Grand Canyon, Zion, and Rocky Mountain National Parks. Holiday garlands intertwined with park objects including seashells, pine cones, and gold aspen leaves add to each room’s festive feel.
A highlight of the decorations is a scaled-down, but architecturally accurate, gingerbread reproduction of the south view of the White House, a unit of the National Park Service. The edible masterpiece includes Bush family pets Barney, Miss Beazley, and Willie frolicking on the lawn with moose, elk, raccoons, and other animals found in national parks.
“National Parks commemorate the people, places, and events that define the American experience,” said Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne. “I am so appreciative of President Bush’s efforts to recognize the important role of national parks in American society. Our country will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016 and the President has been instrumental in establishing the National Park Centennial Initiative to prepare the parks for the next century.”