Wis. Balsam Fir Becomes White House Christmas Tree

First lady Michelle Obama today accepted delivery of a 19-foot Wisconsin-grown balsam fir, which will stand in the Blue Room as the centerpiece of the White House’s annual Christmas display.

The 18-year-old pine was hauled by horse-drawn wagon up the White House driveway to the North Portico, where the first lady, daughters Sasha and Malia, and first dog Bo waited as a military brass ensemble played Christmas carols nearby.

“It’s very large,” said Malia, as the family walked around the tree.

“It’s beautiful,” said Michelle Obama, who donned a gray cardigan, patterned skirt and knee-high boots.

Growers Tom and Sue Schroeder of Neenah, Wis., also accompanied the Obamas for the tree’s arrival. The couple won the National Christmas Tree Association annual championship in August and the honor of donating the White House tree.

“I’m happy with the tree they selected, and I hope the first family and all the visitors to the White House enjoy the tree we grew here on our small family farm,” said Sue Schroeder in a statement.  She and her husband have been growing  trees for wholesale since 1987.

The White House tree – the 46 th presented by a member of the national association – is donated as a gift to the American people. “I wouldn’t want to put a value on it. It’s priceless,” said NCTA spokeswoman Pam Helmsing.

After decorators adorn it with ornaments, the tree will be viewed by an estimated 100,000 visitors to the White House over the next four weeks. According to the White House,  military families, including Gold Star (those who have lost a loved on in military service) and Blue Star (those who have members in active duty) parents,  spouses and children will be the first members of the general public to get a glimpse of the newly decorated tree — on Wednesday Nov. 30.

The theme of the Blue Room tree will be honoring Blue Star families, according to the first lady’s office.

During that event, the first lady will  also host military children in the State Dining Room for a demonstration of holiday crafts and treats by the White House chefs.

A special tree decorated by Gold Star families will also be displayed at the White House visitor’s entrance on the East Wing Landing.

Helmsing said the balsam fir, which was hand-picked by officials from the White House and National Park Service, is prized for its short needles, strong branches, good color and fragrant aroma.  The last time a balsam fir stood in the White House was 1998.

In a statement, the White House also recognized the Schroeders as participants in the Christmas Spirit Foundation’s Trees for Troops  program, which has donated thousands of trees to military families since 2005.