WASHINGTON (AP) — It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the White House.
Michelle Obama continued a decades-old tradition the day after Thanksgiving as she, daughters Malia and Sasha, and Bo, the family dog, witnessed the arrival of an 18-and-a-half-foot balsam fir tree from Wisconsin, hauled up the driveway by horse-drawn carriage and delivered to their doorstep Friday.
The Obamas walked around the carriage and inspected the tree before giving it a thumbs-up. But that was merely a formality; White House staffers traveled to Wisconsin last month and picked out that tree.
The fir is headed for the oval-shaped Blue Room, where it will become the centerpiece of the White House Christmas decorations. It will be decorated to honor Blue Star families, those with a loved one who has served or currently is serving in the armed forces.
The tree came from Schroeder's Forevergreens near Neshkoro, Wis., owned by Tom and Sue Schroeder. It's the first time one of their trees has made it to the White House. The couple earned the honor after winning a national contest — on their fourth try — sponsored by the National Christmas Tree Association.
"It's just very thrilling," Sue Schroeder said in an interview after leaving behind the tree, which took 20 years to grow.
Having the tree at the White House is a "highlight of our Christmas," she said, but on Saturday she and her husband expect to be back in their blue jeans, working at their retail lot and serving customers.
"That is also a very important part of Christmas to us," Sue Schroeder said.
During the next several days at the White House, dozens of volunteers from across the country will join White House staffers for a marathon of tree trimming, wreath hanging and other holiday decorating that will be revealed on Wednesday. Mrs. Obama is giving military families, including Gold Star and Blue Star parents, spouses and children, a first look at the decorations.
White House chefs Cris Comerford and Bill Yosses and White House florist Laura Dowling also will show the children how to make holiday crafts and treats.
The winner of the Christmas tree association's annual contest has presented a tree to the White House annually since 1966.
Darlene Superville can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap