WASHINGTON – Every year for the past few years, Karin Sheppa had gathered her Crofton middle school students in late September or early October and got them started making Christmas tree ornaments.
It was a little out of season, but the ornaments had to be delivered to Pageant of Peace organizers by early November if they were going to grace Maryland’s tree.
The tradition continued, even though Sheppa left her teaching job at Crofton Middle School after the birth of her daughter 18 months ago. Last year, her students got together and made the ornaments in her absence and this year Sheppa assembled a group of 15 Arnold elementary and middle school students from her neighborhood to do the job.
They named themselves the Annapolis Kid Krafters and their work — homemade fabric snowmen, penguins and snowflakes — is now encased in clear- plastic balls and hanging from the boughs of Maryland’s tree, in the shadow of the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse.
Fifty-six trees surround the National Christmas Tree, one for each state and territory. Maryland’s 5-foot tree stands next to the Pageant of Peace performers’ stage, all decked out in red lights and globe-encased handmade ornaments.
Sheppa’s “in” with the program was simple — she picked up the phone three or four years ago and contacted the Christmas Pageant of Peace organizers, who coordinate the decorating of the trees on the “pathway of peace.”
They told her to go ahead and start making ornaments for the Maryland tree, which she has been doing ever since. She picks the designs for the state’s ornaments, which vary from year to year.
In past years, her students “couldn’t understand why we were making these ornaments in the beginning of October” or late September.
“It’s more of like a summer project,” Sheppa said of the ornament crafting.
In the past, Sheppa would take her students on a field trip to the Ellipse to see their work after the state’s tree went up.
“It’s always been fun to see the kids’ faces,” she said.
This year, Sheppa has little time to spare from raising her daughter, Sloane, but she said many of the Annapolis Kid Krafters’ parents plan to take their children to Washington to see the Ellipse this year.
And Sheppa hopes to find time to make it down to the city to see the tree, too, as well as the rest of the decorations.
“I would love to go down,” she said. “I think it’s beautiful every year.”