Representatives from the White House arrived in Carbon County this week to choose the next White House Christmas Tree. This year's tree will come from Crystal Spring Tree Farm in Lehighton.
While the holidays are still months away, the official tree to grace the White House Blue Room is chosen in early autumn. The group spent time walking around Crystal Spring and examining the farm's best trees before marking a towering Douglas Fir as the next White House Christmas Tree.
This year's White House representatives included Dale Haney, supervisor of the White House Grounds; Laura Dowling, chief floral designer for the White House; Jim Adams, supervising horticulturalist at the National Park Service; and Admiral Stephen Rochon, White House Chief Usher. Local and national media outlets, including HGTV (Home and Garden Television), joined the representatives as they examined the trees that best fit the White House's requirements a tree at least 18 1/2 feet tall, full enough to attractively hold hundreds of ornaments, and appealing to both the public and tree professionals.
"They know what they want," said Chris Botek, co-owner of Crystal Spring, leading the group towards the first group of trees. "They know their theme and how they're going to decorate it."
The group began by examining two concolor "white" fir trees, best known for their pleasing smell, lighter needle color, and more natural shape. They next drove to a towering Douglas Fir, best known for its rich green to blue-green color. The Douglas Fir is one of the most popular species of Christmas trees.
"Chris, you're making this hard," said Adams, as the group examined the third tree on the farm that met their requirements. "It has a lovely color and great shape."
In the end, White House representatives declared the Douglas their favorite. They attached a red and gold bow to the tree.
"The color is excellent. It's the perfect tree for the Blue Room," said Haney. "I think (First Lady Michelle Obama) will be very happy."
While the First Lady had no special requests for this year's tree, he noted that the Douglas Fir will make a wonderful addition to the home's holiday decor.
"I always look forward to the holidays. We have a lot of fun at the White House," said Haney.
This is the second time that Crystal Spring will place a Christmas tree in the White House. Chris Botek earned this honor by winning the National Christmas Tree Association's national tree contest in August, when his farm's blue spruce stood out during a vote between the nation's best trees. Winning national "Grand Champion" at the show has become somewhat of a family tradition. Chris's parents, Francis and Margaret Botek, won the national contest in 2006.
"We feel so happy for Chris, that he was able to repeat this accomplishment," said Francis. "This was his tree and it was a wonderful tree."
Crystal Spring is the sixth farm to earn "Grand Champion" a second time in the NCTA contest's 45-year history, and the first to win twice in Pennsylvania.
Haney was pleased to be back at Crystal Spring to select a second White House Christmas tree, and knew that working with the Botek family would go well.
"They're just so helpful," he added. "They can make almost anything happen with a tree. We knew we wouldn't be disappointed."
Representatives from the National Christmas Tree Association, who sponsor the annual contest that determines the White House Christmas Tree, were also on the farm to witness the selection and to meet with the Botek family for a second time.
"It's a beautiful farm," said Pam Helmsing, executive director of the NCTA. "It's very evident that they did not just have one great tree that won a contest they have row after row of great trees."
The Douglas Fir will be harvested and presented to the First Lady shortly after Thanksgiving.