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At The White House, It's All Ribbons And Bo

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At The White House, It's All Ribbons And Bo

Around the Nation

At The White House, It's All Ribbons And Bo

At The White House, It's All Ribbons And Bo

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Ari, before you go, I know we're talking about a lot of serious business, but the White House is preparing for the holidays.

ARI SHAPIRO: Yes. About a hundred thousand people are expected to walk through the White House this December and look at the holiday decorations, which include more than a dozen Christmas trees, an enormous gingerbread mockup of the White House. And as I was being given an advance tour of these decorations, I met dozens of volunteers from around the country - almost 100 in total - who had come to help decorate the White House. So I spoke with some of them and here's what they had to say.

Ms. LINDA LENNON: I'm Linda Lennon(ph), Denver, Colorado - Littleton actually.

SHAPIRO: Littleton, Colorado - and is this your first year helping to decorate?

Ms. LENNON: Yes. I wrote letters to Michelle Obama and asked her if, you know, I could come. And I kept writing letters - I wrote nine all together.

SHAPIRO: Nine letters?

Ms. LENNON: Yes.

SHAPIRO: Why was it so important to you?

Ms. LENNON: A dream come true, top of my bucket list.

SHAPIRO: How did the actual experience compare with the dream that you'd had for so many years?

Ms. LENNON: I don't have words. When your dream comes true, you're like -speechless, absolutely speechless.

Mr. TODD RICHARDSON: The reality of the experience was actually way better than I had ever imagined. My name's Todd Richardson(ph) from Knoxville, Tennessee. They were very open about you using your creative gift.

SHAPIRO: So, is there something you could point to here that expresses your creativity?

Mr. RICHARDSON: The garland on the tree, the way the ribbon is draped is something that I did and the garland over the door is pretty much all my handiwork.

SHAPIRO: In gold and blue with peacocks.

Mr. RICHARDSON: Yes, that's correct.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ALEXANDER SCHNEIDER: My name is Alexander Schneider(ph) and I'm a White House decorator this year. I started writing in letters about October 2009 and this year in October I got a response saying that I would be selected. Also, I kind of put at the bottom of my letter I'd love to surprise my grandma with an invitation. So, my response was written: Dear Alexander and Grandmother.

Ms. HELEN ORIGINALL: I'm Helen Original(ph) and I'm from St. Paul, Minnesota. He called me and told me that he was accepted to be a volunteer and then also he said, Amma(ph), you - they call me Amma - you don't know this but I also included your name and you have been accepted. I cried, I screamed, I danced. I did everything. I was so thrilled.

Mr. BILL YOSSES (Executive Pastry Chef, White House): Those are the actual blossoms covered in chocolate. Yes, green chocolate.

Unidentified Woman: The actual blossoms...

Mr. YOSSES: No, we have green chocolate, yes. There's always progress in the world of pastry. My name is Bill Yosses. I'm the executive pastry chef for the White House.

Well, the foundation is gingerbread. We bake a month in advance so that it can dry out. And then we use it as a construction material, like wood. We cut it on a band saw, close to 500, it's well over 400 pounds, I'll say that. They complain every year that it's getting heavier. We just tell them that they're just getting older.

Mr. BOB LAPPIN: I'm Bob Lappin(ph). I'm from Carlinville. I'm an 88-year-old volunteer.

SHAPIRO: And what would you say to people who aren't able to be here and see for themselves? How would you describe it?

Ms. LAPPIN: Fantastic. And you really should put your name down and hope to hell they call you - I shouldn't say that on television cause this has been fun.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: The voices of some of the volunteers who helped decorate the White House for the holidays, brought to us by NPR's White House correspondent Ari Shapiro, with production help from Tom Dreisback(ph). You can see a photo gallery of the White House holiday decorations on our website, NPR.org.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

  • First lady Michelle Obama, with daughters Sasha and Malia, welcome the arrival of the official White House Christmas tree at the White House last week. Walking behind the first lady are Brandi and Chris Botek of the Crystal Spring Tree Farm in Leighton, Pa., where the tree was cut.
    Hide caption
    First lady Michelle Obama, with daughters Sasha and Malia, welcome the arrival of the official White House Christmas tree at the White House last week. Walking behind the first lady are Brandi and Chris Botek of the Crystal Spring Tree Farm in Leighton, Pa., where the tree was cut.
    Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
  • A Christmas tree in the Blue Room of the White House.
    Hide caption
    A Christmas tree in the Blue Room of the White House.
    Jewl Samad/AFP/Getty Images
  • An ornament hangs on a Christmas tree at the White House.
    Hide caption
    An ornament hangs on a Christmas tree at the White House.
    Jewl Samad/AFP/Getty Images
  • Michelle Obama displays a card made by children from a military family in the State Dining Room on Wednesday. The families were invited to make holiday ornaments, cards and treats at the White House.
    Hide caption
    Michelle Obama displays a card made by children from a military family in the State Dining Room on Wednesday. The families were invited to make holiday ornaments, cards and treats at the White House.
    Jewl Samad/AFP/Getty Images
  • A replica of the White House made out of chocolate and gingerbread.
    Hide caption
    A replica of the White House made out of chocolate and gingerbread.
    Jewl Samad/AFP/Getty Images
  • The theme for Christmas at the White House this year is "Simple Gifts".
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    The theme for Christmas at the White House this year is "Simple Gifts".
    Charles Dharapak/AP
  • Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Washington director of the American Friends of Lubavitch; White House Budget Director Jack Lew; and Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, director of the American Friends of Lubavitch, take part in the annual Hanukkah menorah lighting ceremony at the White House on Wednesday.
    Hide caption
    Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Washington director of the American Friends of Lubavitch; White House Budget Director Jack Lew; and Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, director of the American Friends of Lubavitch, take part in the annual Hanukkah menorah lighting ceremony at the White House on Wednesday.
    Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
  • The Obamas watch as Susan Retik (second from left) and her daughter Molly light a menorah on the second night of Hanukkah during a reception in the East Room on Thursday. Cleanup crews discovered the menorah, loaned from Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans, covered in mold, filth and sewage after Hurricane Katrina. Retik's husband, David, was killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. (Saul Loe...
    Hide caption
    The Obamas watch as Susan Retik (second from left) and her daughter Molly light a menorah on the second night of Hanukkah during a reception in the East Room on Thursday. Cleanup crews discovered the menorah, loaned from Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans, covered in mold, filth and sewage after Hurricane Katrina. Retik's husband, David, was killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
    Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
  • The U.S. Marine Chamber Orchestra performs in the Grand Foyer during a Hanukkah reception hosted by President Obama at the White House on Thursday.
    Hide caption
    The U.S. Marine Chamber Orchestra performs in the Grand Foyer during a Hanukkah reception hosted by President Obama at the White House on Thursday.
    Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

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