Mountain State students spruce up national Christmas spirit

Robert L. Bland middle schoolers decorate West Virginia's state tree in D.C. (Source: Gray DC)
Robert L. Bland middle schoolers decorate West Virginia's state tree in D.C. (Source: Gray DC)(GRAYDC)
Published: Dec. 5, 2019 at 4:33 PM EST
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West Virginia’s Christmas spirit is on-display for all the world to see, hanging from evergreen branches in President’s Park. The Christmas ornament's are the work of eighth graders at Robert L. Bland Middle School.

"It’s a tremendous honor for our kids," said art teacher Joe Merrifield, "they were real excited at the opportunity, to make sure they did their best work."

In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge ordered the first White House tree to usher in the holidays. Beginning in 1954, trees for each state, territory, and D.C. encircled the Christmas centerpiece. Organizers enlisted everyone from professional artists to church groups to decorate over the years.

It's a tradition students from across the country are now a direct part of as they bring their hometown holiday cheer to the White House.

"I think it brings together, a sense of community, and a celebration that is country-wide," said Autumn Cook with National Parks Service Public Affairs, "and it’s also in a National Park that belongs to everyone."

Cook said its spectacular to watch kids react as they see their work representing the state and nation. She’s a fan of all the ornaments, but, "I really like the West Virginia ones that represent the artist Charlie Harper and his depiction of birds that were kind of geometric."

"He did some wonderful renditions of cardinals," said Merrifield, "which is our state bird, so we used that as the basis for our design," and pointing out that the artist hailed from their part of the state.

About 20,000 visitors are expected to attend Thursday's national tree lighting. Thousands more will get an up-close look at the students work over the course of the holiday season.

Copyright 2019 Gray DC. All rights reserved.

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