While most folks in Clay County will spend a long Thanksgiving weekend searching the attic for boxes of Christmas ornaments, June Griffin will have a much larger task at hand, a warehouse full of holiday décor in Washington D.C.
The Henrietta woman has been chosen as one fewer than 100 volunteers from around the nation assigned to decorating White House for Christmas.
I’ve looked at it on TV for years, and every year I say, ‘Oh, I wish I could go do that,’” said Griffin. “So last year, I said, ‘If I’m going to do anything like that, I had better get at it.’”
With no way of knowing how the selection process worked, Griffin called Congressman Mac Thornberry. The congressman’s office gathered up the information needed by Griffin and submitted her name.
After requesting additional information from Griffin, they requested samples of her work. Griffin, who takes the lead each year in constructing the First Baptist Church of Henrietta entry each year for the Pioneer Reunion float parade, obliged. She sent copies photos of floats from past years, as well as flower arrangements and paintings.
The whole procedure took one year to complete.
June will spend 11 days in the nation’s capitol, leaving the Monday before Thanksgiving, Nov. 24. She and husband Leroy will be joined by brother and sister-in-law Stanley and Jean Seabourn at the trendy Donovan Hotel, just blocks from the White House, for a few days of sightseeing before the work begins.
The Griffins will attend a reception for the volunteers at the Thanksgiving night.
June Griffin will report to the warehouse where all decorations are restored at 7:30 a.m. the following day. Volunteers will work in the warehouse Friday, Saturday and Sunday before moving into the White House. The task of decorating The Leader of the Free World will be completed Wednesday, Nov. 30.
While in Washington, June hopes to also help decorate the Blair House, across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, which has quartered visiting foreign dignitaries for almost 70 years. The Blair House was built in 1824.
She is not sure what to expect when work begins, only that the décor will be based on a theme, as it has been since Jacqueline Kennedy first started the tradition.
“Last year, it was ‘Simple Pleasures’, and they asked people from all the states to send something from their state. Even if it was leaves they had picked up,” said June. “It’s been more natural things since Michelle (Obama) has been there.”
This year’s theme is not yet public knowledge.
Last year, the White House was decorated with 19 Christmas trees, including the official White House tree located in the Blue Room, an 18-foot Douglas fir delivered on a horse-drawn carriage. Some 100,000 tourists visited the White House in the six weeks leading up to Christmas.
On her final evening in Washington D.C., June and the other volunteers will be guests at a White House reception.
“The story will be when I get home,” said June. “I think we will get to see a whole different perspective, we’ll get to go in the back door.”