|Thursday, Dec 6, 2007|
President Bush will officially light the National Christmas Tree this afternoon on the Ellipse south of the White House. The ceremony preceding the lighting begins at 5 p.m.
Lighting the National Christmas Tree, a 41â 9â Colorado blue spruce, marks the official beginning of a three-week musical event and is a tradition begun in 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 their national charitable partner, the National Park Foundation, is sponsoring the 2007 Lighting of the National Christmas Tree.
The list of onstage performers includes the Academy of Country Musicâs top female vocalist of 2006, Sara Evans. Joining her will be 12-year-old singer/actor Julian Ivey (recent star of Broadwayâs âThe Lion Kingâ); 15-year-old classical artist Holly Stell (dubbed the âPetite Pavarottiâ for her exceptional voice and gift for singing opera); and Master Sergeant Ryan Carson, vocalist with Max Impact, The U.S. Air Force Band. Broadwayâs Brad Oscar (star of âThe Producersâ in New York, London and Las Vegas) returns for a second year as Santa Claus. The United States Air Force Band, under the baton of Colonel Dennis M. Layendecker, will be this yearâs featured service band, with the St. Albans and National Cathedral Schools Choir providing vocal support to the guest artists as well as solo performances of holiday favorites.
The lighting ceremony is only the beginning, as the National Christmas Tree will be lit from dusk until 11 p.m. each night from December 8th to January 1st. Entertainment, featuring musical performances by volunteer choirs and dancers, will be held nightly on the Ellipse stage starting December 8th and continuing through December 23rd. Weeknight performances will be performed between 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Weekend performances will be performed between 4 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
Ticket holders for this year's Lighting of the National Christmas Tree opening ceremony 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 of 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 opening ceremony were distributed to the public on November 3rd 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 aerosols of any kind, fireworks, firecrackers, animals (except guide dogs), duffel bags/suitcases, backpacks/coolers/thermoses/glass containers, real or simulated weapons/ammunition, knives of any kind, mace/pepper spray and laser lights/pointers are prohibited. This list may not be 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 13th 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 through January 1st.
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 event focal point. All 57 trees will be lit each evening from dusk until 11 p.m. and will be lit 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 45th year GE has donated the design, lighting, and ornaments for the National Christmas Tree, with GE lighting designer Kathy Presciano completing her 13th year as lighting design consultant.
Several other organizations have contributed their services in support of the 2007 event. Major donors include American Airlines, a proud partner of Americaâs National Parks; Willard Intercontinental Washington, D.C.; 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 .