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Festival of Trees kicks off Christmas season at Southwest Virginia Museum

November 5th, 2011 3:51 am by staff report

BIG STONE GAP — A special tribute will part of the 16th annual Festival of Trees from Nov. 13 through Dec. 31 at the Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park in Big Stone Gap.

Every year for the past 16 years has established a seasonal tradition in Big Stone Gap representing a feat of community creativity and involvement. All four floors of the stately Victorian home that houses the museum’s collections are lavishly decorated for the holiday season by individuals, church groups, businesses and other organizations.

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, a driving force behind the establishment of the museum, also 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 the Washington, D.C., public schools approached Slemp 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 the tree be placed on the ellipse south of the White House, and a national tradition was born.

Volunteers from around the Southwest Virginia region continue these traditions by putting up holiday trees and decorating mantels, doorways andbanisters throughout the Southwest Virginia Museum, sharing their creative talents and holiday spirit with all who visit.

This year, 80 groups will give their time and talent to create beautiful displays.

Visitors can tour the Festival of Trees from Nov. 13 to Dec. 31 during regular museum hours and during special night viewings on Nov. 26, Dec. 3, Dec. 10 and Dec. 17. Admission to the museum is $4 for adults, $2 for children ages 6-12, and free of charge for children under 6.

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.

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