WASHINGTON – Deck the tree with crabs and turtles.
It may not be the typical holiday refrain, but for a group of Frederick County Girl Scouts it was the perfect way to decorate a tree representing Maryland at the Christmas Pageant of Peace in Washington.
Pageant organizers chose Ijamsville Girl Scout Troop 1034 in September to decorate the state’s tree. The scouts, with help from as many as 200 girls at a workshop in October, crafted 50 ornaments, including beaded terrapins and beaded blue crabs to represent the state, as well as other ornaments representing scouting.
Fifteen Ijamsville Girl Scouts will be on hand tonight to see their work officially go on display when President Bush opens the 81st annual Christmas Pageant of Peace by lighting the National Christmas tree.
“Some of the girls were disappointed that they couldn’t go” to the opening ceremonies on the Ellipse, said Troop 1034 leader Lori Dixon, of the process of winnowing down the 200 girls who participated.
But only 15 will be able to attend because of limited seating: Pageant organizers said all 2,800 public tickets were snatched up within 45 minutes of being made available Nov. 6.
“We had them put all their names in a hat and drew 20 — 15 for kids and 5 for adult chaperones,” Dixon said of the process.
Still, the Ijamsville troop is “thrilled to secure this honor,” said Kathy Galbraith, a volunteer with Penn Laurel Girl Scout Council, which includes Frederick County.
The National Christmas tree — a 40-foot Colorado blue spruce — sits just south of the White House and is surrounded by the “Pathway of Peace,” a walkway ringed by 56 smaller trees representing all 50 states, five territories and the District of Columbia.
Planning for the event began in January, said James McDaniel, executive director of the Pageant of Peace. He said organizers picked volunteers to decorate state trees with “ornaments that are objects that are identifiable with the state,” like the hand-crafted lobsters for Maine’s tree or the Ijamsville scouts’ crabs and turtles.
The scouts will not be the only Marylanders participating in the pageant. As many as 19 groups, ranging from school choirs to dancers, are scheduled to perform between now and Christmas during free nightly performances on the Ellipse.
In addition to the president, tonight’s performers will include celebrities like “American Idol” finalist Kimberly Locke and former NBC weatherman Willard Scott, who will play Santa Claus.
The first National Christmas tree was lit by President Coolidge in 1923, with over 3,000 spectators looking on. It has been an annual tradition for presidents since then, with the exception of three years in the 1940s when a war-imposed blackout halted the practice, according to pageant historian David R. Curfman.
-30- CNS 12-01-04