WASHINGTON, D.C. — A family from Northumberland County spent their first time visiting the White House meeting the first lady and presenting her with the building's official Christmas tree.
On Monday, Melania Trump accepted a Christmas tree from Mahantongo Valley Farms, a tree farm in lower Northumberland County. Owner Larry Snyder, of Pitman, earned the honor by winning the 2019 National Christmas Tree Contest hosted by the National Christmas Tree Association.
"It's a Pennsylvania Christmas tree for Pennsylvania Avenue," said Snyder. "I feel delighted. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity."
The Douglas fir, which was originally 23 feet tall but shortened to fit inside the Blue Room, was delivered by the Snyder family last week. Snyder, his wife Joanne, son Aaron and grandson Mason Snyder, daughter Lydia and her husband Andrew, and granddaughter ClairaAnne Bomgardner were invited to the nation’s capital to present the tree to the first lady on Monday.
The tree was presented to the White House by a carriage drawn by two Clydesdales. The first lady walked out with a Marine escort helping her down the stairs at approximately 12:09 p.m. She walked around the tree, spoke briefly to the carriage operator and then invited Snyder and his family to the carriage to pose for photographs and shake the family's hands.
Melania Trump did not address the dozens of reporters on the scene other than to say, “Merry Christmas, everyone." The presentation lasted about five minutes.
"I'm still very much a little bit in shock," said Joanne Snyder. "I feel so blessed to be able to represent all the tree farmers. It was an unbelievable experience. It was really something for the memory."
The tree that was selected Oct. 15 by White House staff has been growing for 16 years. It will be displayed in the Blue Room, the center of the State Floor of the White House. Since 1929, the Blue Room tree has been known as the White House’s official tree and is traditionally trimmed by the first lady.
The Snyders said they toured the White House and met Melania Trump prior to the presentation. The first lady spoke first to their grandson Mason — introducing herself and telling him it was so nice to meet him, said Joanne Snyder.
"She thanked us for coming and she thanked us for the beautiful tree," she said.
The family was able to take a photograph with Mrs. Trump and then were able to see the Blue Room where the tree will be displayed. The First Lady also high-fived the two grandchildren, she said.
"It was a family affair and very special," said Larry Snyder.
This is the 54th year a member of the National Christmas Tree Association has presented the official White House Christmas Tree. The tree must be between 18 and 19 feet tall, so the tree selected had to be shortened before delivery.
Larry Snyder said he hopes to win the contest again, but he must wait four years before he is eligible to compete again.