The Estes family of Jefferson has delivered a Christmas tree to the White House before, in 2008, but another trip to Washington, D.C., as guests of the first family was not a been-there-done-that affair.
Eight members of the Estes family – Rusty, Ann, Beau, Amanda, Kati, Athena, Colin and Riley — delivered their second Peak Farms tree to the White House on Nov. 23.
“We got there on Thursday night”, said Ann. The family was first given a tour of the White House.
“We got to see the bowling alley, which thrilled the kids,” she said.
When the first family received them, Ann said, “immediately the girls, Malia and Sasha, handed our grandchildren gifts.”
The Estes children then gave the Obama’s a history of fraser firs.
“We had pictures made with Michelle and the girls, and the dog, Bo,” Ann said.
“The tree was actually delivered the Tuesday before we got there,” Rusty said. An old flatbed wagon was used to ceremoniously cart the tree up to the house Friday morning.
“[The first lady] said it was perfect, and gave a thumbs up,” said Beau.
Getting the tree into the White House Blue Room and setting it up was a minor feat of engineering, Rusty said.
The 22-year old fraser fir was 18.5 feet tall, 11 feet across at the base, and weighed about 800 pounds, Beau said. Bound for shipping and wrapped in a drop cloth on site, it had to pass through a six-foot doorway.
“They set it up on dollies and rolled it to the front steps,” Beau said. “The National Park Service employees more or less just manhandled it in.“
It took a crew of 14-16 to move the tree into the Blue Room, and mount it to the tree stand, which was a stainless steel structure big enough to accept a trunk even larger than this one, Rusty said.
“To me, that’s the special time,” he said, “when you’ve got a tree that you’ve grown on your farm…then you see your tree in the White House…representing the whole country. That’s pretty special.”
But the reception wasn’t all spit and polish, as the White House staff was in full decorating mode. “We got to see the White House in a complete mess,” Ann said.
Amanda, a teacher at Blue Ridge Elementary, said she had arranged with a White House staffer for her students to make tree ornaments for the White House, which the Estes family brought with them.
“We were allowed to create 35 ornaments,” she said, which are now hanging on several of the 50-plus Christmas trees at the White House.
Back at their hotel that night, Fox News called and offered to send taxis to pick up the whole family and bring them over for a tour of Fox’s D.C. studio. “Our grandchildren got to pretend they were doing the weather,” Ann said.
At 10 p.m. the family gave an unrehearsed interview on Fox News Live.
Colin, 7, said he “had a real good time in Washington,” and got to talk to the Obama girls.
“The whole White house staff and Michelle Obama were very gracious hosts,” Ann said. “You would have thought we were the important people.”
“I was relieved none of my boys broke anything,” Beau said.