December 24, 2007

A local's ornament adorns White House Christmas tree

Victorville Daily Press

A close-up of the ornament painted by Steve Brodeur, a wildland fire engine captain in the Mojave National Preserve.

Visitors to the White House this Christmas may notice a small piece of the High Desert among the holiday decorations.

A hand-painted ornament showing scenes inspired by the Mojave National Preserve hangs on the White House Christmas tree along with 346 other ornaments featuring National Parks from across the country.

The Mojave National Preserve ornament, painted on a silver bulb eight-inches in diameter, shows a Joshua tree, cacti and the Providence Mountain range, familiar scenes from the 1.6 million acre park.

Steve Brodeur, a wildland fire captain at the preserve, said he spent more than 20 hours painting the ornament, one dot at a time. He made stencils from tape and practiced on six other bulbs before working on the final piece.

“I’m always sitting around doodling, so it’s nice being able to do a project like this that has to be planned out,” he said.

Brodeur, who never had formal art training, said he was honored to be asked to participate in the project, particularly because some other parks had their ornaments produced by professional artists. He said that he was a little nervous to paint on such a fragile medium, especially because each park was only issued one fiberglass ornament.

“I thought they were made of glass until I dropped mine on the cement and it bounced,” he said.

Brodeur and other artists attended a Nov. 28 reception at the White House to present the ornament with government officials and first lady Laura Bush.

The Mojave ornament was placed on a center branch halfway up the 18-foot high Fraser Fir tree in the Blue Room of the White House.

Cathy Kupper, spokeswoman for the National Park Service in Washington, said that the ornament will become part of the presidential collection and maintained for years to come. She said the first lady chose the “Holiday in the National Parks” theme for this year’s Christmas decorations because she spent considerable time in the parks as a child.

The theme permeates through the East Wing and State Floor of the building. In addition to the ornaments, garlands of painted pine cones and seashells, models of national monuments and paintings of the parks are on display. A 40-inch architecturally accurate white chocolate and gingerbread replica of the White House is displayed in the State Dining Room.

The 300 pound model includes miniature versions of the first family’s pet Scottish Terriers, Barney and Miss Beasley, as well as animals found in the national parks.

“It’s the White House; they really go all out for the holidays,” Kupper said.