BIG STONE GAP, Va. — The Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park will present the 20th annual Festival of Trees through Dec. 31. An incredible feat of community creativity and involvement, the Festival of Trees leaves all four floors of the stately Victorian home that houses the museum’s collections lavishly decorated for the holiday season.
The tradition of the Festival of Trees began as a way to celebrate the holiday traditions of the Victorian era as well as to honor the role that C. Bascom Slemp — the driving force behind the establishment of the museum — played in establishing the American tradition of a “national Christmas tree.”
Slemp served as the personal secretary to President Calvin Coolidge. In 1923, a group from the Electrical League and Washington, D.C. public schools approached him with an idea for a Christmas tree to be erected on the White House lawn. Slemp took the idea to the first lady, Grace Coolidge, who took up the cause. She recommended that the tree be placed on the ellipse south of the White House, and a tradition was born.
Volunteers from the Southwest Virginia region continue these traditions by decorating holiday trees, mantels, doorways and banisters throughout the museum, sharing their creative talents and holiday spirit with all who visit the site. This year, 81 groups contributed their time and talent to create truly beautiful displays.
Visitors may tour the Festival of Trees through Dec. 31 during regular museum hours and during special “night viewings” from 5 to 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 12, 19 and 26. Regular admission rates apply, and group rates are available for parties of 10 or more.
For more information about the Festival of Trees, contact the museum at 276-523-1322.