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“In keeping with President Bush’s National Park Centennial Initiative, the White House plans to celebrate our national parks this coming holiday season by decorating the official White House Christmas tree with special ornaments representing each park.” This excerpt is from an invitation to Washita Battlefield NHS from First Lady Laura Bush who invited each national park to designate an artist to depict some of the unique aspects of its park and design a large gold Christmas ball which was provided by the White House. Each year a different theme for the Blue Room’s Christmas tree is chosen.
In August, Wendy Lauritzen, Superintendent of Washita Battlefield National Historic Site nominated local artist, Rita Hughes for this prestigious honor. “It only seemed fitting, since Rita is an artist and a Charter Lifetime Member of the Washita Battlefield Historical Society. She has served as the first secretary and as past president,” Superintendent Lauritzen said. She also designed the Centennial buckle for the Cheyenne Arapaho Old Settlers Reunion.
Rita’s ornament depicts Peace Chief Black Kettle, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and the outline of the new visitor center with its name and location along with the National Park emblem, the arrowhead. The shield from the Oklahoma state flag is portrayed on the bottom of the ornament. “Each ornament on the magnificent 18-foot Fraser fir was designed by an artist selected by the park,” said National Parks Director Mary Bomar. “The ornaments tell the stories of our parks, just as our parks tell the stories of our nation.”
Rita and her husband, Ray were invited to join First Lady Laura Bush at the White House for a special Christmas reception honoring the artists on Thursday, November 29. “This is such an honor and privilege. It is one of the most exciting things that has ever happened to me,” Rita said.
Rita is an Assistant Vice President of the Cheyenne Security State Bank. She serves as a board member for the Roger Mills-Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce and Committee Chair for the Cheyenne Arapaho Old Settlers Association. She is a past member of the Historic Preservation and Development Foundation.