|U.S. first lady Laura Bush walks pass the official White House Christmas tree in the Blue Room as she gives the media a tour of the holiday decor at the White House, November 30, 2005.
A horse-drawn wagon pulled up to the White House Monday with an 18 1/2-foot Christmas tree that will adorn the Blue Room, marking the official start of the holiday decorating season at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
First lady Laura Bush walked outside to receive the Fraser Fir that was pulled up the driveway to the North Portico by two horses, including one that didn't seem happy in his work.
"Our horses aren't working as a team this morning," Mrs. Bush said as she eyed the restless horse and scanned the tree.
Gary Walters, chief usher at the White House, and Mike Lawn, grounds foreman, selected the tree at the Deal's farm on Oct. 20. The tree for the Blue Room as well as trees for the Bush family's private residence and the Oval Office were cut on Nov. 25 and transported to Washington.
This year, the holiday decorating theme at the White House is "All things bright and beautiful." The Blue Room is the centerpiece of the White House decorations. The tree must be 18 1/2 feet tall because a chandelier is removed so the tree can be attached to the ceiling.
"The decorators are in there right now," Mrs. Bush said. "Santa's elves are in, decorating the White House."
The National Christmas Tree Association has presented the official White House tree since 1966.
Members of the association, which represents about 4,500 people involved in the production and sale of real Christmas trees, compete in state and regional competitions to becomeeligibleto take a tree to the national contest. The Deals, who have been growing trees for about 34 years and have about 240,000 trees growing on their farm, competed and won the North Carolina contest and then beat 22 other entries at the national convention.
After the Deals won the national competition, the White House staff members traveled to the farm and chose the trees.
"We had tagged this one, hoping it would be the one picked," Earl Deal said. "This is a dream come true. I think every Christmas tree grower hopes that they will someday provide a tree to the White House, but it's still hard to believe that it will ever happen to you. There is no higher honor in this business."