(Photos by Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
Tuesday’s wintry weather provided the ideal backdrop as Tennessee first lady Crissy Haslam made her way through the firs of various sizes at the Roan Valley Tree Farm to get an up-close look at one of the trees that will soon have a holiday home at the Governor’s Mansion.
“It’s a perfect day because it’s snowing outside, a perfect day to start getting ready for Christmas,” she said.
For the third consecutive year, trees from the local farm will make their way to the Governor’s Mansion. Two nearly 10-foot-tall trees — a concolor fir and a Fraser fir — will be picked up and delivered to the mansion next week to serve as Christmas trees.
Haslam said only live trees and trees grown in Tennessee are used in the upstairs portion of the Governor’s Mansion for holiday decorations. She said the trees donated by Roan Valley will represent two of the four trees that will be placed in the upstairs area.
Haslam said she was surprised to learn that there are a number of Christmas tree growers on this end of the state. She also said she was at Roan Valley to not only express her appreciation to Roan Valley Tree Farm for its donation of the trees, but also to promote Christmas tree growers throughout the state.
“It’s always exciting to bring in those fresh trees, and what a lot of people don’t realize is that we grow so many different kinds of trees in Tennessee, so I’ve really been happy to help spread the work about Tennessee Christmas tree growers around the state,” Haslam said.
The trees have the potential to be seen by thousands. This marks the third annual “Tennessee’s Home for the Holidays” open house event at the Governor’s Mansion. Over the past couple of years, nearly 10,000 people have toured the residence to view the holiday decorations there.
Haslam said there has been a different theme for each year of the open house event, and this year’s theme is “Tennessee Legends and History.” She said the Governor’s Mansion has partnered with museums throughout the state to bring in items with which to decorate trees in the mansion and each of the four live trees in the mansion will be dedicated to figures in Tennessee history — Andrew Jackson, Davy Crockett, and Sequoyah, with one tree dedicated to Tennessee’s governors.
“So I think everybody will enjoy it and learn a little bit at the same time,” she said.
Haslam said it has not yet been determined which historical figures will be represented on the trees donated by Roan Valley Tree Farm.
Roan Valley owner Wayne Ayers said he has grown trees for more than 50 years and, over that time, trees from his farms have ended up in U.S. federal buildings, state capitals throughout the country, and even the White House. He said the Governor’s Mansion previously contacted him to see if he would be willing to supply trees for holiday decorations there. Ayers agreed to this, and he said the donation of trees to mansion is becoming an annual tradition.
“We just plan on sending trees down to the Governor’s Mansion,” Ayers said.
And Ayers said that the publicity that comes from having trees from his Carter County farm in the Governor’s Mansion doesn’t hurt.
“I enjoy doing it, and I’m very grateful that they think our trees are good enough to go there,” he said.
Those wishing to tour the Governor’s Mansion this holiday season may make reservations by visiting www.tn.gov/firstlady. The tours are free, but reservations are required.