WASHINGTON – An evergreen,decorated with images of an Iowa winter,stands along a path with 55 other trees. These Fraser Firs,each about six feet tall,are dwarfed by the massive,40-foot Colorado blue spruce growing behind them.
And behind that is the White House.
They’re all part of the annual Pageant of Peace celebration. President Bush presided at the tree lighting ceremony Thursday evening to begin the event that also features choral groups,a model train and other entertainment each night through Dec. 31.
Every year,the theme is “Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All Everywhere.”
Each tree has its own personality,as it wears ornaments depicting the holiday season in the state or territory it represents.
The Iowa tree represents a “down home” Iowa holiday,said Terri Johnson,director of the Manning Heritage Foundation in Manning,Iowa. The foundation sponsored this year's tree by creating the decorations.
While shopping with her daughter,Johnson,50,came across a Christmas card that she said “fit so well with winter traditions in Iowa.”
The scene depicts a family taking a sleigh ride near a covered bridge.
Johnson said volunteers got together to create Iowa's ornaments. The pageant provides each sponsoring organization with 50 clear plastic globes to protect the designs from the weather.
Each Iowa ornament shows either the covered bridge or the family in a sleigh. The women got together one afternoon to put the 50 ornaments together.
“We did it like an assembly line,” said Theda Wiese,64.
The retired Manning woman said one woman drew the circles,another cut out the pictures,others tied the pictures into the globes and the entire group tied the ribbons that now hold the ornaments on the tree.
Johnson said the bridge in the picture reminded her of the covered bridges of Madison County. Over the past two years,two of the famous bridges have been lost to arson.
“It's sad for everybody in Iowa to have lost those bridges,” Johnson said.
Wiese said that,while Iowa does not have as many horses and sleighs as it used to,the picture is still an Iowa winter.
“We had to come up with something that depicted the whole state,not just our town,” Wiese said.
She said that,if the heritage foundation gets to decorate the ornaments in the future,she would like to depict Iowa's agriculture and education.
On the Ellipse,just south of the White House,the trees are lined up in alphabetical order by state,around the National Christmas Tree. Iowa's tree stands between Indiana’s,decorated with snowflakes,and Kansas’,decorated with holiday bulbs and holly.
Audrey Hartzell,a volunteer consultant who has worked with the Pageant of Peace for about 20 years,said decorating the trees can be difficult because ornaments have to last outside for more than three weeks.
Hartzell,68,said last year,the Danish Immigrant Museum in Elk Horn,Iowa,sponsored the tree and depicted another old-fashioned Christmas. The globes showed how children were not allowed to see the tree until Christmas morning.
She said that,in previous years,artists created ornaments that held small patchwork quilts,carvings, wood sculptures and other winter scenes.
“A lot of things are reminiscent of when they were young,” Hartzell said.