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Christmastime at the Governor’s Mansion

Press Shop | 11.29.2018

Press Shop Note: On December 11 and December 12, the First Lady will host a Christmas Tea, and on December 18, the First Lady and the First Santa will host a Christmas Tea for children of all ages. Information about times, menu, entertainment and ticket purchase is at http://www.friendsofthemansion.org/

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At the Governor’s Mansion, things started to look a lot like Christmas on Halloween. That’s the day the Mansion staff, under the direction of Mansion Administrator Patty Shipp, broke out the decorations and commenced to deck the Grand Hall, not with boughs of holly but with trees painted to highlight the theme of an Arkansas Natural Christmas.

The planning, however, started long before October 31. In fact, the theme began to take shape as First Lady Susan Hutchinson and the volunteers were decorating for Christmas 2017 and tossing about ideas for capturing the Spirit of Christmas anew in 2018.

The planners agreed that the theme for Christmas 2018 should highlight The Natural State. There is much to consider when decorating the Mansion, but the most daunting task is the Grand Hall, which the First Lady likes to remind people is bigger than any single room at the White House. The big idea for the Grand Hall emerged after the First Lady, who grew up in Atlanta, shared the story about the day that the man she would marry, who grew up in Gravette, took her to his old home place to show her the farm where he grew up.

Young Asa Hutchinson and Susan Burrell tromped through six inches of snow to the banks of Spavinaw Creek. At the creek’s edge, Asa rolled up his jeans, removed his shoes and socks, and handed them to Susan. Then he swept her up in his arms and -- barefoot -- carried her through the icy water to the other side of the creek to show her the broken-down cabin which, reputedly, the famed outlaw Jesse James used as one of his hideouts.  

When the First Lady had concluded her story, her listeners simultaneously caught the vision for Christmas 2018.  Artist Tim Morris said he could make Spavinaw Creek happen. And he did. He started painting in his workshop in early October. Now Mr. Morris’s two mural-sized renderings of Spavinaw Creek hang on either side of the bay window on the south end of the Grand Hall.

Some 45 volunteers helped decorate, including members of the First Lady’s Bible study group from Northwest Arkansas – the Soul Sistas. Other volunteers included members of the Mansion Association and friends of the Mansion.

Each of the public rooms has a theme, with hints of Colonial Williamsburg with magnolia garlands and sugared fruit. The library, with deer antlers aplenty and pinecones galore, reflects Governor Hutchinson’s love of the outdoors.

In other areas, you’ll find human-size angels blowing trumpets and the ever-popular singing reindeer, Barry. Red cardinals abound in the atrium, as if they are flying among the trees at Spavinaw Creek.

But the Grand Hall with its grand vision is the room that gives Arkansas Natural Christmas its natural feel. It’s as if you have tromped through those snowy woods yourself, and at any moment, the governor-of-Arkansas-to-be and his First-Lady-to-be will emerge and stand at the water’s edge, waiting to cross into their future.

To view photos of the Governor's Mansion Christmas decorations, CLICK HERE.

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