"It is an amazing honor for the National Park Service to be selected as the theme for White House holiday decorations by the President and Mrs. Bush," said National Park Service Director Mary A. Bomar. "Mrs. Bush is the best champion for our national parks, and the beautiful decorations in each state room showcase the natural and historical treasures found in parks throughout the country."
The Christmas tree, located in the White House Blue Room, is adorned with hand painted ornaments representing each of the country's 391 National Park Service sites.
"Each ornament on the magnificent 18-foot Fraser fir was designed by an artist selected by the park," said Bomar. "The ornaments tell the stories of our parks, just as our parks tell the stories of our nation."
The Canyonlands National Park ornament was painted by Moab artist Cynthia Beyer who also works as a ranger in the park's remote Maze District. Beyer's design depicts the four districts of Canyonlands. Representing the Needles District is a depiction of Angel Arch, for the Island in the Sky, Candlestick Spire, for the Maze, the Great Gallery Pictograph Panel, and for the River District, the swirling waters of the Green and Colorado.
Beyer's previous experience painting gourds helped her with the challenge of painting on the round surface of the globe provided by the White House.
"I enjoyed the opportunity to create something unique for Canyonlands as well as the challenge of representing some of the spectacular, signature features of the park," Beyer said.
The ornament for Natural Bridges National Monument was painted by artist Corky Hays, who is superintendent of Natural Bridges National Monument and Hovenweep National Monument. Her painting depicts Sipapu Bridge and the rock art below it flowing into a scene of Owachomo Bridge with a dramatic night sky above. "Natural Bridges is celebrating its centennial in 2008 as well as its proclamation as the first Dark Night Sky Park in the world," Hays said. "For this reason I felt the night sky element of my design was an important representation of the park in addition to the bridges for which the park is named. I enjoyed working on this project and the challenge of painting on a sphere."
James Estes, a long-time seasonal ranger at Hovenweep National Monument, painted an ornament depicting Hovenweep's spectacular ancient towers. The ornament for Arches National Park was painted by artist-in-residence Gordon Talley of Idaho. It depicts Delicate Arch.
Each artist who painted an ornament representing their park was invited to the White House for the unveiling of the tree. Hays was one of the artists who attended the ceremony. Hays said she thoroughly enjoyed the chance to see the White House's National Parks decoration theme and view all the ornaments on the 18-foot tree. Hays and her husband, Paul, also enjoyed seeing the Bush dogs, Barney and Miss Beazley, romping joyously on the White House lawn.
Internet sites have been set up for anyone wishing to view the ornaments. The NPS has developed a web page with images of the ornaments and the White House now has a slideshow with many of them. The link to the NPS website is: www.nps.gov/pub_aff/whho2007/WebPage-Thumb.00001.html. The slide show at the White House site, which lists the parks in alphabetical order, segueing from one ornament to the next, may be viewed at www.whitehouse.gov/slideshow/ornamentslides.html.
"National Parks commemorate the people, places, and events that define the American experience," Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne said at the ceremony. "I am so appreciative of President Bush's efforts to recognize the important role of national parks in American society. Our country will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016 and the President has been instrumental in establishing the National Park Centennial Initiative to prepare the parks for the next century."