Several empty boxes and red and green plastic totes sat spread out from one end of the living room to the other — just like in everyone else’s house the week after Thanksgiving.
Except these boxes and totes circled a large wool rug with the Sower from the Capitol’s dome woven into the pattern.
And this bannister, wrapped in evergreen ropes, wound up and around and around and around to where the governor and the first lady live.
Decking the halls at Nebraska’s governor’s residence requires more of everything — from ornaments to ribbons to candles — and creative ways to incorporate sparkly, glittery decorations with traditional, sometimes historical furnishings.
It takes almost three days to finish the project.
This year, first lady Sally Ganem called on two friends from her hometown of Fremont to lend a hand. Carole Darling and Janet Saeger gladly shared their decorating and organization skills, coming to the residence earlier this fall and surveyed what was available and what might be added — and to get a sense of what Ganem would like to see in the house she calls home but also regularly opens to the public.
Then Darling and Saeger went back to Fremont and began to experiment with decoration solutions. They looked at custom carpets for color selection in the formal dining room; in the basement, a lifesize bronze sculpture of a young pioneer girl by Nebraska native George Lundeen, titled “Prairie Flowers,” provided inspiration. The house was built in 1958, but it has been updated and remodeled periodically over the past five decades.
Two tall Douglas fir trees, both from the local tree farm Tall Timber Plantation, are the centerpieces, and the women decided each would have its own distinctive look.
Upstairs, in the residence entry, the two picked a more formal theme. Saeger used rolls and rolls of wire-edged ribbon to float around the tree and hung red, gold and green ornaments from its branches.
Downstairs, the tree has a more “organic” feeling, Darling said. Bronze and orange hues were used, and bunches of hydrangeas and a dozen handmade ornaments were added. Saeger hand-glued the bronzey balls with flowers and other “naturals.”
Additionally, the women found wooden “N’s” and used glue and layers of colored beads to transform them into white or red crystal-covered ornaments.
Saeger estimated each tree will have about 3,000 lights.
The women combed through the 40 to 50 boxes of past Christmas decor stored in the Capitol vault, pulling what would work for this year’s trees.
This year, the first family will have a new place to display the hundreds of Christmas cards they receive. Two small artificial trees in the entry will be “decorated” with them. Each card will get a punch-hole and hanging ribbon.
Although much of the focus went to the two main trees, the mantel in the living room received new mercury glass holders topped with realistic-looking flameless candles. An elastic band of rhinestones wraps each candle.
Snickers, the 3-year-old dog in residence, clearly enjoyed all of the holiday preparations. At the end of the first day of decorating, he proudly sported a sparkly “collar” that actually was an extra elastic band for the flameless candles on the mantel. Whether he will be allowed to wear it for the entire holiday season was still to be determined.
In the past, the mantel featured real greenery, but it had a tendency to dry out during the holiday season. This year, more than 70 feet of artificial — and reuseable — greens were ordered for the residence.
Guests at the governor’s residence are greeted with festive color even before they set foot inside. The two large containers outside the front door always are seasonal, thanks to Theresa James, Univerisity of Nebraska-Lincoln coordinator of campus Master Gardeners, and volunteers who change out the plants quarterly.
Right now, live greens, sparkly branches and tall, white birch branches are featured there with red accents. Large, live poinsettias provided by the UNL Horticulture Club were used inside the residence.
The public will be able to see the finished results this month during the regular open hours on Thursday afternoons from 1 to 4 p.m.