November 28, 2009
Yesterday, the First Family received their official WH Christmas tree from octogenarian growers, Eric and Gloria Sundback (video).
There are approximately 21,000 Christmas tree growers in the US, and in order to be considered for a presidential Christmas tree, a grower must win the National Christmas Tree Association‘s national contest:
Each year the National Christmas Tree Association, in conjunction with state associations, conducts a national contest for growers to demonstrate their growing, grooming, shearing and presentation abilities, to select a Grand Champion Christmas Tree.
The Sundbacks won the contest held in August in Chattanooga, TN, thus becoming Grand Champions, once again.
President NCTA MARK STEELHAMMER:
Winning Grand Champion status is very difficult and represents the pinnacle of Christmas Tree farming.
The Sundbacks have been growers since 1956 (PA), ending up in Shepherdstown WV (1967), and this is their fourth win: twice for President Reagan (Douglas Fir – Fraser Fir) and once for President Carter (Douglas Fir).
It’s an honor to represent Christmas Tree farmers throughout America as we present this fresh tree from our farm to the First Lady. The White House deserves the best quality tree, and we believe that a tree grown right here on an American farm can represent the nation well.
After winning, the growers receive a visit from the WH for the actual tree selection.
On Oct 20, Director of the Executive Residence and WH Chief Usher, Retired Rear Adm. Stephen Rochon and Superintendent of the WH grounds Dale Haney visited the Sundbacks and made their selection.
Wednesday, the tree was cut down, as well as “dozens” of smaller trees that will be used throughout the WH, including the Oval Office.
Friday, the tree arrived at the WH via a jingling horse-drawn carriage, the horses covered in red bows, the driver in black tophat looking Poesque and “White House Christmas Tree 2009″ on the side of the carriage between wreaths with red bows. Playing “O Christmas Tree” was the horn section of the Marine Band.
Mrs Obama and the girls were there to greet the carriage and the Sundbacks, who were extra delighted since there are children in the WH.
MR SUNDBACK: It’s big enough for Sasha to climb in, I think.
Malia looks like she’s grown a few inches.
Official tree specs:
18½ foot Douglas Fir
12 foot wide
Will be set up in the Blue Room
First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (1961) was the first to put the tree in the Blue Room so visitors could see it and Benjamin Harrison was the first president to place a Christmas tree in the WH (1889).
Dec 3rd: the First Family will light up the National Christmas Tree, a live Colorado Blue Spruce “located on the Ellipse, just south of the WH”.
After a chat with the First Lady over cider and cookies:
MR SUNDBACK: Absolutely wonderful
MRS SUNDBACK: Talk about a thrill.
I’m curious to know how the tree and the Sundbacks got from WV to the carriage and who paid for the transport of all three. I imagine the trees were free.
Source: Chicago Tribune’s DARLENE SUPERVILLE