The White House has gone geek chic this holiday season. The traditional gingerbread house and the 18-foot Blue Room tree are back, but there's an undeniable touch of tech in the decor this year.
In the East Garden Room, known as the Booksellers area, visitors are invited into an interactive snow scene that mirrors the viewer's movements. On the opposite wall, giant replicas of Bo and Sunny, made with more than one mile of knotted black and white ribbon, greet visitors by moving their heads back and forth in a robotic fashion.
Among the thousands of ornaments, a handful have been 3D printed. These are the winners of the first ever "White House 3D Printed Ornament Challenge." One, called "Winter Snowflakes," has an prominent place in the center of a tree in the East Room. Designed by the Challenge's winner, Gil Rivera of Montclair, New Jersey, it's an orb created from a pattern of interconnected snowflakes in a material resembling frosted glass.
Still, the classics abound. For the fourth year in a row, the official White House Christmas tree pays tribute to military families. A banner wrapped around the tree reveals its theme, "America the Brave," and it's adorned with 2,000 ornaments, most of them red, white and blue.
The 18-foot tall Concolor Fir comes from the farm of Chris Botek in Lehighton, PA. Botek won the privilege of supplying the Blue Room tree earlier this year at the National Christmas Tree Contest in Allegan, Michigan.
Twenty-six Christmas trees dot the rooms of the White House, each with its own theme. In the China Room, the tree ornaments are made of gingerbread, giving off a scent of freshly-baked cookies. The Vermeil Room's two trees are mounted on top of dress form mannequins, with evergreen skirts and ornaments by Designer Alexis Bittar.
It took 106 volunteers from across the country five days to decorate the trees and surrounding scenery.
"We're grateful for their enthusiasm, for their creativity," said First Lady Michelle Obama, "They have, as you will see, they have done an outstanding job. The house is just breathtaking."
The undertaking was not without its mishaps. Patty Goethals, of California, spent her five days on a team that decorated the State Dining Room, where they hand-crafted ornaments meant to resemble Scrabble pieces.
"We were dropping them left and right," she said.
Eric Barnard of Georgia said that his team broke about 200 berry-and-pinecone arrangements while decorating the Green Room's two eight-foot trees.