The annual arrival of Christmas trees at the Governor’s Mansion in Jefferson City took place Monday.
Sunday’s snowstorm in the state didn’t impact the 7 a.m. arrival time of the 40-foot Norway spruce that’ll adorn the grounds outside the mansion. It came from the town of Lebanon which was not in the path of the weather system that brought blizzard conditions to the northern part of the state. The tree had grown too big for its original space in south-central Missouri after being planted 25 years ago by Mike and Linda Knudson to mark the birth of their son. The couple donated the giant tree for the event.
The Missouri Department of Conservation is charged with locating an ideal evergreen every year to serve as the centerpiece of holiday festivities at the mansion. Among the agency’s requirements is that the tree be an eastern white pine, Norway spruce, or eastern red cedar. It also must be fully branched on all sides and be at least 40 feet tall.
Six trees were also brought in Monday to decorate the interior of the mansion, all coming from Pea Ridge Farm in eastern mid-Missouri’s Hermann, which was also not in the direct path of the snowstorm. In addition, a 20-foot tree will sit in the house’s nook below its grand staircase.
Among the biggest events to take place at the Mansion is the annual tree lighting ceremony which takes place this year on Friday at 6 p.m. when Governor Mike Parson and First Lady Teresa Parson will light the trees
The public is invited to attend the ceremony and the Candlelight Tours that begin immediately afterward and continue until 9 p.m. Shari Childs, the Executive Director of the Governor’s mansion, says the event draws attendees from all over the state. “I know in previous years we’ve seen anywhere from 7,000-to-12,000 people through the house on Friday night,” said Childs.
Friends of the Governor’s Mansion volunteers will be available to answer questions during the tours in which visitors are allowed inside the first floor of the building to view the elaborate decorations which are being put in place between now and Friday. The tours will continue Saturday from 12 p.m-3 p.m.
A new addition this year is a 16-foot moving wooden train that will wrap around the 40-foot Norway spruce tree on the south mansion lawn. There will also be a live nativity scene performed by Jefferson City’s Concord Baptist Church on the lawn. Childs says the presentation will include live animals. “(There’ll be animals) that you might see in a manger, including and maybe a camel,” Childs said. The onsite manger was built on the mansion lawn last week.
Student choirs and bands from around Missouri will provide music during the tours on both days. Friday, the Sparta High School band will perform outside on the front steps during the lighting ceremony while choirs from Bolivar, Rolla, and Waynesville, as well as School of the Osage in Lake Ozark, will take turns singing inside. Saturday, choirs from the Boys and Girls Club of Jefferson City, Jefferson City High School and Helias Catholic High School in Jefferson City will perform.
The theme of this year’s Christmas exhibit at the Governor’s Mansion is “Down Home Missouri Christmas”. Childs has advice for anyone interested in attending the Friday and Saturday events at the Governor’s Mansion. “I would just advise people to dress warm, dress in layers and be ready to stand in line for a little while,” said Childs.
The first lit Christmas display on the Mansion lawn under Democratic Governor Guy Brasfield Park and First Lady Eleanora Park. Governor Park was in office from 1933 to 1937. The first celebration of Candlelight Tours was during the administration of Republican Governor Kit Bond who served from 1973 to 1977 and again from 1981 to 1985.
The Friday night gathering at the Governor’s Mansion is part of the annual Living Windows event in downtown Jefferson City.