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Local residents help decorate state mansion for Christmas

POSTED: December 2, 2011 1:30 a.m.
Photos by TOM REED/The Times

North Hall High School student Analiese Jones puts the finishing touches on cut-out wooden gingerbread men that will be part of the Christmas decorations at the Governor's Mansion. The decorations were cut out by the Chestatee High School construction students and finished by the North Hall students.

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If you’ve always wanted to take a tour of the Georgia Governor’s Mansion when it was all dolled up for the holidays, this year you may have even more of an incentive to do so.

Several local groups, including a few students, have helped to make the holiday season extra bright at the Atlanta home of Georgia’s first couple, Gov. Nathan and Sandra Deal.

Although several groups from around the state helped to deck the mansion’s halls, Hall County residents — including members of Sandra Deal’s prayer group — lead the charge in decorating the mansion’s ballroom.

"Many of us in the group have been close friends of (Sandra Deal’s) for almost 40 years," said Kathy Lovett, a Gainesville resident.

"She asked if we’d like to help decorate the mansion. Friends are there to help each other out, so of course we said, ‘Yes.’"

The Gainesville ladies decided to take a traditional approach.

"Christmas trees are the center of the decorations," said Susan Jessup, prayer group member.

"One of the trees celebrates Georgia as the Peach State and is decorated with glass peaches. Under the tree is a showcase of Georgia-produced gifts — both homegrown and manufactured. After the seasonal tours of the mansion are completed, the gifts will be donated to Toys for Tots and others in need."

The ballroom decorators called on area students for assistance.

"Sandra always had a heart for students and for providing additional opportunities for them, so I thought it would be meaningful to let them showcase some of their talents," Lovett said.

The students created 2-foot tall gingerbread men that will be included in a gingerbread village.

The men were cut out by Chestatee High School construction students under the guidance of teacher Baker Pulliam and decorated by members of the North Hall High School National Art Honor Society. Art instructor Marjorie Hinkley is the group’s advisor.

"I felt honored that we were asked to participate," said Analiese Jones, president of the North Hall High School chapter of the National Art Honor Society.

"I think it’s pretty cool that our artwork will be on display for thousands of people to see."

The village will be complete with gingerbread houses created by Roberta Scheutze, Denise Deal, Lisa Lovett-Leiter and Kathryn Lovett-Kornberg. The staging for the village was created by Darrell Lucas’ construction students at Gainesville High School.

The other rooms in the mansion will represent a different area of the state and "depict themes from the beach to the mountains," Jessup says.

The holiday season officially begins at the mansion Sunday with the Christmas tree lighting ceremony. It will be followed by tours of the mansion, which begin Monday and conclude Dec. 16.

Both the tours and the lighting ceremony are free and open to the public.


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