Texas stories hung with care at the Capitol


by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist SCOTT MCKENNEY

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE


Posted on December 6, 2013 at 7:25 PM

Updated Friday, Dec 6 at 8:15 PM

 AUSTIN -- A towering Christmas tree marks the beginning of the holiday season in the Texas House of Representatives.

The ascent up the grand staircase to its prominent pedestal in the state's storied lower chamber is the end of a long journey for the show-stopping 21-foot Virginia Pine, destined for greatness since its rise from a sapling in the North Texas town of Denison.
"They've had their eye on it for the Texas Capitol for a few years," said Julie Straus, wife of Speaker of the Texas House Joe Straus (R-San Antonio). "They've been nurturing it, knowing that we needed something about 21 feet tall."
Since her husband's tenure as Speaker, Straus has led an annual tradition of trimming the tree with handcrafted ornaments from the state's 150 House districts. Helped by a team of family and spouses of House members, Straus delicately transferred the boldly colored ornaments from boxes to branches Friday afternoon.
Commissioned by each member and decorated by constituents, each ornament depicts a design unique to their district. Straus explains each represents a glimpse of home for thousands of Texans from across the state who will visit the Texas Capitol this month. 
The designs range from university themes to historic landmarks, and are executed by school children as well as professional artists. Sherry Workman, whose husband Paul Workman's (R-Austin) district includes Lake Travis, proudly showcased an ornament designed by a neighbor depicting the treasured lake as still scenic despite years of drought.
"You see lots of dirt, and you see even a boat with a tree growing out of it. This is how Lake Travis looks," said Workman, who said that a slightly higher shoreline on next year's ornament would be welcome. "I hope so. I want only the trees showing and lots of blue." 
A scene from Zilker Park featuring joggers and musicians is the theme of state Rep. Donna Howard's (D-Austin) ornament, while state Rep. Charles "Doc" Anderson's (R-Waco) bears the emblems of Baylor University and its Texas college rivals. Each work tells a story all its own. 
Visitors to the Texas Capitol can find the ornament from their area by finding their district number on one of two maps in the House chamber. A book next to each map features photographs and descriptions of each ornament in numerical order by district. 
"It's very clear that it shows the extraordinary diversity of our state and also the amazing talent," said up Straus. "Both those things I think are highlighted perfectly on this Christmas tree this year."
Twinkling under the light's of the Texas Capitol's historic chandeliers, it's a sight to behold as Texas stories are told this holiday season.
For current and past holiday ornaments, go here.


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