|Wednesday, Dec 6, 2006|
President George W. Bush is expected to officially light the National Christmas Tree opening the 83rd annual Christmas Pageant of Peace on Thursday, December 7th. The tree is located on the Ellipse, just south of the White House. The ceremony preceding the lighting begins at 5 p.m.
The lighting of the National Christmas Tree, a 41-foot, 9-inch Colorado blue spruce, marks the official beginning of the three-week Christmas Pageant of Peace and is an unbroken tradition that has continued since 1923, when President Calvin Coolidge lit the first tree in President's Park on behalf of all Americans. The National Park Service, in partnership with the National Park Foundation, is sponsoring the 2006 Christmas Pageant of Peace.
The list of on-stage performers includes the entertainment legend Eartha Kitt; Broadwayâs
âPeter Pan,â Cathy Rigby; popular recording star B.J. Thomas; Tony-nominated actor Brad Oscar, appearing as Santa Claus; country music artist John Conlee; the United States Army Band under the direction of Colonel Thomas Rotondi, Jr.; and The Singing Angels Choir from Cleveland, Ohio, under the direction of Charles Eversole.
The lighting ceremony is only the beginning of the Christmas Pageant of Peace. Each night from December 8th through January 1st, the National Christmas Tree will be lit from dusk until 11 p.m. Musical entertainment, featuring musical performances by volunteer choirs and dancers, will be held nightly on the Ellipse stage starting December 9th and running through December 23rd. Weeknight performances will be performed between 6 and 8:30 p.m. Weekend performances will be performed between 4 and 8:30 p.m.
Ticket holders for this year's Pageant of Peace are asked to enter the Ellipse at both 15th and Constitution Avenue and at 15th and E Streets, and are to report no later than 3:30 p.m. to clear security. Non-ticketed guests from the general public are invited to attend and are asked to enter the Ellipse at both 17th and C Streets and at 17th and E Streets.
All ticket holders and all non-ticketed guests of the general public must pass through Secret Service magnetometers at all entrances and personal items will be searched. Everyone is advised that there may be long lines waiting to enter the metal detectors and thus to allow plenty of time to clear security.
A total of 2,800 tickets for the Pageant of Peace were distributed to the public on November 4th at the Ellipse Visitor Pavilion on a first come, first served basis. All 2,800 tickets were claimed on that date.
As in previous years, guests are reminded that the following are prohibited â aerosols of any kind, fireworks, firecrackers, animals (except guide dogs), duffel bags, suitcases, backpacks, coolers, real or simulated ammunition, knives of any kind, mace/pepper spray and laser lights/pointers. This list may not be all inclusive. Law enforcement personnel reserve the right to prohibit any other items determined to be a potential public safety hazard. Strollers, wheelchairs and diaper bags are allowed, but guests should be prepared for a search of all items.
Seasonal displays include a Yule log and a large-scale model train. For the 12th consecutive year, the National Capital Trackers, a local model train club, will provide model trains that surround the base of the National Christmas Tree. The trains will run from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily until the pageant concludes.
In what becomes the "Pathway of Peace," the National Christmas Tree and 56 smaller trees â one for each state, five territories and the District of Columbia â serve as the focal point of the Christmas Pageant of Peace. All 57 trees will be lit each evening at dusk until 11 p.m. and will remain lighted each night through January 1st. Sponsoring organizations in each state provide the tree decorations and each decoration is encased in a protective plastic globe to shield it from the weather.
Every year, GE Consumer and Industrial designers decorate the tree with thousands of lights designed purposely for this event. This is the 44th year that GE has donated the design, lighting, and ornaments for the National Christmas Tree, with GE lighting designer Kathy Presciano completing her 12th year as lighting design consultant.
Several other organizations have contributed their services in support of the 2006 Pageant. Major donors include American Airlines, a proud partner of Americaâs National Parks; Willard Intercontinental Washington, D.C.; Amtrak; Christmas Pageant of Peace, Inc.; Robert M. Johnson, The Johnson Group; Hargrove Inc.; and Hudler Carolina Tree Farms, Inc.
For additional information, you may also contact the White House Visitor Center at 202-208-1631 or the National Park Service website at www.nps.gov/whho/pageant.