A Chicago elf helps decorate the White House for the holidays

Every year, the White House holiday decor is truly a sight to behold! This year, over 68,000 guests from across the country are expected to visit. Throughout the House, there are 62 trees and over 70,000 ornaments, with the majority of the holiday decor designed by Rafanelli Events and executed by 89 volunteers from across the U.S.A. including one of Chicago's very own, the beloved Quenten Schumacher!

Read Quenten's charming account from his memorable experience:

The first day we were all taken by motorcoach to a 'secret destination' which is the warehouse where the White House stores holiday decor in addition to antique furnishings, hardware and supplies for the White House. I was asked to work on the 'military tribute' display which consisted of wrapping approx 250 boxes in brown craft paper, ribbons and airmail tape. These, along with the tree with over 250 ornaments, were placed in the East Wing Landing, one of the first stops for visitors of the White House. The paper garland we created was made from over 1300 airmail envelopes! 

I was so excited to know that I was working on an area that not only would be seen by so many, but that would touch the hearts of so many military families and enlisted who were away and separated from loved ones during the holidays. The other areas I worked on were: The East Entrance (fastening over 3800 square feet of hedge pieces + decorating the sleigh); The East Hallway (covering four column facades with thousands of ball ornaments); The China Room designed by Carolina Herrera;  The Jacqueline Kennedy Garden (installation of 56 snow people representing the United States and its' territories) 

Overall it was a spectacular experience that allowed me the opportunity to work in and experience the White House for 5 days with top-notch designers, florists, event professionals and Christmas enthusiast from 35 states! I was interviewed by HGTV multiple times during their shoot and met Mrs. Obama at the Volunteer Reception, so it was a super way to kick-start my holidays! 

Here's some other White House holiday decor tidbits:

1) Three rooms were designed by fashion designers including Carolina Herrera, Duro Olowu and Carol Lim and Humberto Leon of Opening Ceremony and KENZO.

2) As part of the First Lady and VP Biden's "Joining Forces" initiative, guests are invited to share a note with service members via digital messages using Ipads set up on the East Landing.  In the past, handwritten notes were sent. Ahhhhhh, technology!

3) The Gingerbread House in the State Dining Room, an annual tradition, is close to 500 pounds--with more than 250 pounds of gingerbread dough, 150 pounds of dark chocolate, 25 pounds of gum paste, 25 pounds of pulled and sculpted sugar work and 25 pounds of icing! Whew!

4) The Christmas tree this year, on display in the Blue Room, is an over 18' Fraser fir grown by Jay and Glenn Bustard in Landsdale, Pennsylvania. Messages to troops from their families wind around the tree on a ribbon. The tree is wrapped with a gold star garland, representing the stars of our flag and the protection of our liberty by the military.

5) As guests enter the White House, they will be greeted by a family of penguins. A glitter-clad sleigh is filled with ornaments and has two baby penguins at the reins.

6) The very first thing visitors will see on the East Landing is the Military Tree Quenten helped decorate. The tree is adorned with gold star ornaments that will be added by families of fallen heroes to pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

7) Hand-cut snowflakes hang from the ceiling of the East Colonnade. Some of these are made by students from Amidon-Bowen Elementary School and Horton's Kid in Washington, D.C. and share the handwritten aspirations of these students. Others represent each of the 56 states and territories and feature iconic symbols from across America such as state flags and seals.

8) Larger-than-life Bo and Sunny replicas (Obama's dogs)  are created out of nearly 55,000 feet of yarn knitted into 7,000 yarn pom-poms. Topiaries, wreaths and ropes, comprised of tennis balls create a dog's holiday dream.

9) In the State Dining Room, there is a giant gumball machine with snow-white gumballs, a tree created with 4,000 gumballs, a 6' teddy bear and hundreds of vintage nutcrackers.

10) The East Room features four grand trees and the White House creche--an 18th century nativity scene made of terra cotta and intricately carved wood created in Naples, Italy, and presented to the White House in 1960. It has sat in the East Room for the holidays for more than 45 years, spanning nine administrations.

The HGTV special on "Decorating the White House for Christmas" is set to air this Sunday, Dec 13th, at 6PM.  We'll be watching Quenten!

What lovely holiday traditions, made even more special by a certain Chicagoan's expert touches!  Congrats with love Quenten Schumacher and thanks for sharing your beautiful memories with us!

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