JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Inside the Missouri Governor’s Mansion, nestled in the spiral of the grand staircase, is a large tree so tall it reaches the height of the chandler above. It is decked out in angels, rocking chairs, and snowflakes.
That Christmas tree is the favorite part of decorating for the person in charge making the winter wonderland a reality.
As the Executive Director of the Missouri Governor’s Mansion, Shari Childs is the woman in charge of turning the century-old building into a holiday paradise. She works behind the scenes to make the magic happen.
Childs has been working in the Governor’s Mansion for nearly five years, transitioning from the tourism department during then-Gov. Jay Nixon’s tenure.
The mansion is still a work in progress, with workers fritting about, putting the finishing touches on the decorations before the doors open for the tree lighting on Friday, which is followed by candle light tours Friday and Saturday.
“It takes a week, of about 20 of us, tackling every room to get the Mansion ready for the public,” said Childs.
The preparations for the lighting ceremony began on Monday morning with the arrival of the Christmas trees. The tree selection process starts in September.
The tree displayed and decorated on the Mansion lawn is a 40-foot Norway spruce donated by Mike and Linda Knudson of Lebanon, Missouri. It was planted 25 years ago to mark the birth of their son and had grown too big for the space.
There are six trees scattered throughout the inside of the Mansion and all of them came from Pea Ridge Farm in Hermann, Missouri. While the majority of the inside trees are under 10-feet-tall, Childs’ favorite nestled in the grand staircase spiral is well over 25-feet-tall, and it had to come in through the front door.
The Department of Conservation brings about 11 employees, and with the help of staff at the Mansion, and they pull it off of a trailer and they carry it in through the front door. They use ropes to stand it up.
All the decorations follow a theme — though what that theme is will not be revealed until Friday night.
“We come up with an idea, two or three, and put it on a story board. And then [First Lady Teresa Parson] choses which one she likes best,” said Childs. Then Childs sets about bringing the idea to life.
Pine cones, antlers, poinsettias, garland, and Missouri-grown trees have taken over the Mansion, giving a holiday atmosphere that would be near impossible to emulate.
“We have an amazing team and none of it would be possible without them,” said Childs.
That team works really hard and long hours to bring everything together, Childs noted. They have staff working full-time on decorating, bring in florists, and more.
“Governor and Mrs. Parson are very warm and welcoming, and that was a lot of the inspiration behind our theme this year. I hope everybody sees that and can feel that when they walk in the house,” said Childs.
The annual lighting of the tree will take place Friday at 6 p.m. Candlelight Tours of the Mansion will immediately follow. Doors will be open until 9 p.m. and again on Saturday, December 1, from 12 p.m-3 p.m. Each day student choirs and bands throughout Missouri will provide music during the tours.
Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at firstname.lastname@example.org.