WASHINGTON — Christmas is always an over-the-top event at the White House. Five things to know about how the White House team is going big with this year’s festivities:
BY THE NUMBERS: 65,000 guests over the next month; 26 decorated trees in the public rooms; 106 volunteers to do the decorating. As for that gingerbread house in the State Dining Room: It contains 250 pounds of pastillage, 40 pounds of marzipan, 25 pounds of gum paste, 80 pounds of gingerbread dough and 25 pounds of sugar work.
NO SMOKING TAILS: Or so they hope. Last year’s motorized version of first dog Bo got overheated and started to smoke. This year, teams from the Presidential Innovation Fellows and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy came up with new, robotic versions of Bo and Sunny that can sense guests’ movements and turn in their direction. The designers toned down the interactions after deciding that an early version of “Bo-bot” was “a little creepy,” in the words of Bosco So, one of the presidential innovation fellows.
A TREE TALE: Michelle Obama describes the 18-foot concolor fir in the Blue Room as “the biggest, hugest tree.” That may or may not be hyperbole. But the fir was big enough that workers had to take the hinges off the front door to get it into the executive mansion, the first lady says. This is the official White House Christmas tree. It has 2,000 ornaments.
GOING DIGITAL: People can play along at home. The White House decorations include 3-D printed ornaments designed by students, tinkerers, engineers and artists from around the country. People can learn about how to design their own, and will be able to download and print the winning 3-D ornament designs.
BUSTING OUT: It’s no small-scale operation to make Christmas happen at the White House. White House chefs erected a makeshift extension of their kitchen under an outdoor canopy, where workers in hats and hoodies could be seen loading up cookie sheets with loads of tiny potatoes on Wednesday. On the other side of the mansion, the White House florist shop’s operation similarly spilled outside into a tent, where workers were adding bows to floral arrangements in need of finishing touches.
NANCY BENAC, Associated Press