Once-in-a-Lifetime Honor Comes Twice to Area Artist: Michelle “Mike” Ochonicky Selected To Create Missouri’s Ornaments For The 2011 National Christmas Tree Display

Ornaments from all 56 U.S. states, territories and the District of Columbia to be displayed at the 2011 National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Michelle “Mike” Ochonicky of Eureka, Missouri has been chosen to design and create the ornaments for Missouri’s tree for the 2011 National Christmas Tree display in President’s Park in Washington, D.C., the National Park Foundation announced today. Ochonicky will work with students from East Middle School in Joplin, Missouri to replicate her design for Missouri’s 2011 ornament.

A local artist and local youth were selected from each U.S. state, territory and the District of Columbia to design and create 24 ornaments.  Twenty-three of the ornaments will be hung from the state or territory tree as part of the National Christmas Tree display in President’s Park.  One of the ornaments will decorate the White House Visitor Center Christmas tree, which showcases one ornament from all 56 states, territories and the District of Columbia.

“The decorating of the state and territory trees in President’s Park is a highly anticipated holiday tradition,” said Neil Mulholland, President and CEO of the National Park Foundation.  “We look forward to including the creations of Mike Ochonicky, representing Missouri during the 89th annual celebration.”

As one of America’s oldest holiday traditions, the National Christmas Tree Lighting began on Christmas Eve in 1923, when President Calvin Coolidge lit a Christmas tree in front of 3,000 spectators on the Ellipse in President’s Park.  Since 1923, each succeeding President has carried on the tradition of what now has become a month-long event presented by the National Park Foundation and National Park Service.  In addition to the National Christmas Tree display, President’s Park hosts a variety of family-oriented holiday attractions, such as the Santa’s Workshop, nightly holiday performances, a Yule log, nativity scene, and model train display.

“I am tremendously honored to design these works for a second year,”   said Ochonicky.  “To represent my home state of Missouri last year was the artistic dream of a lifetime. Having that privilege twice is indescribable. Working with the students in Joplin, a city that suffered so much from the terrible tornado this past year, makes this an especially uplifting project.”


“The ornaments are reverse-glass painted (painted in reverse from the inside of the spheres) and offer special symbolism this year,” explained the artist. “Missouri is proudly proclaimed across the top of each sphere. From ‘2011’ painted at the bottom of each sphere, silver stars rise up on shimmery strokes to symbolize Missouri’s recovery from the devastating winds that hit our state during this year. Holiday traditions are represented in multiple and inclusive ways: a pine bough and pine cone on one side, a lighted candle and wrapped gift on the other side, symbols of hope and anticipation.  All this is set against a swirling background of deep purple and icy blue, representing the winter sky.”

Four weeks of holiday events in President’s Park will kick off with the 89th National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony hosted by the National Park Service and National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks, on Thursday, December 1, 2011, at 5:00 p.m. EST. This year’s talent line up for the lighting ceremony will be announced in November.  Talent announcements, as well as other event details and a live web stream of the ceremony will be available at www.thenationaltree.org.

Tickets for the event will be awarded via an online lottery system, providing the general public a chance to obtain free tickets to the ceremony.  The online lottery will be available beginning at 10:00 a.m. EST on Thursday, November 3 (or 9:00 a.m. CST, 8:00 a.m. MST and 7:00 a.m. PST).   The ticket lottery remains open through 9:59 a.m. EST on Monday, November 7 (or 8:59 a.m. CST, 7:59 a.m. MST and 6:59 a.m. PST). Visit www.thenationaltree.org for more information.

Michelle “Mike” Ochonicky is the Arts Editor  and columinist for the Healthy Planet magazine in St. Louis, Missouri. To read her each month, please visit www.thehealthyplanet