Official Christmas tree arrives at White House

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the White House now that the official tree has arrived.

A horse-drawn wagon hauled the 20-foot white fir up the driveway to the North Portico for inspection on Friday morning. Receiving the tree were first lady Michelle Obama, daughters Malia and Sasha and family dogs Bo and Sunny.

The family circled the tree, smelled it and conferred before the first lady said, “Thumbs-up. It’s a go. We’re taking the tree.”

Malia, holding Bo’s leash, said of the tree: “It’s great. It’s big.”

It’s tradition for the first lady to preside over the tree delivery on the morning after Thanksgiving. The odds are slim to none that it would ever be rejected.

The tree is chosen weeks in advance at the farm that wins the National Christmas Tree Association contest. The winner has presented the official White House tree since 1966.

In late September, a group of White House staffers including the chief usher, groundskeeper and chief horticulturist traveled to the Crystal Spring Tree Farm in Lehighton, Pennsylvania, to search for a tree they agreed is perfect enough to stand in the Blue Room, albeit tethered to its ceiling, as the main attraction throughout the White House holiday season. The Blue Room tree cannot be taller than 18 ½ feet, so this tree will be trimmed to fit.

The farm, run by Christ Botek, a second-generation Christmas tree farmer, also provided the official White House tree in 2010 and 2006.

The delivery marked the start of an intense few days of round-the-clock tree trimming, wreath laying and other decorating by an army of volunteer decorators who help turn the White House into a winter wonderland. Many of the decorations honor military families, a group that Mrs. Obama is trying to support through a nationwide initiative.

She has invited military families to the White House for a first look at the decorations on Wednesday.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.