ARLINGTON, Tenn. — Students from Arlington High School are taking part in a century long tradition. Since 1923, the National Christmas Tree has lit up Washington, D.C. during the holiday season. Surrounding it this year is 58 trees, representing each state, territory, and school managed by the Bureau of Indian Education and the Department of Defense Education Activity.
This year 2,600 students created ornaments for the trees in President Park, including 15 from Arlington, displaying art of the Bass Pro Pyramid, state birds, and Tennessee music legends.
“Now that I created it, I’m like ‘I made something really weird. I shouldn’t have made Dolly Parton into a Box Turtle,’ but I did do that,” says Conner Hall, Arlington High School Senior.
Hall is one of the students taking part in the America Celebrates Ornaments program in 2022. The process began earlier this year with the Tennessee Art Education Association. The current president of the organization was once the student teacher of Arlington High School’s own Carrol McTyre.
“He gave my name to the state department and the state department contacted me,” says McTyre, “Here’s what we want you to do: create an ornament, a design that’s Tennessee-themed, and the catch is you have a week and a half to do it.”
Soon after, McTyre and her students got to work to meet the deadline.
Abby Hill almost did not participate. She had just started a new job and did not think she would have time. However, Hill realized it was too big of an opportunity to miss.
“I really sat down and I was like, I have to do this,” says Hill, “Immediately I went to working, every night until midnight on that painting. My design featured mockingbirds, the Tennessee bird in a Tulip Poplar tree, which is the Tennessee national tree.”
The ornaments take inspiration from all Tennessee has to offer, from the state flag, to state landmarks, and even musicians.
“What’s our national state animal - a raccoon - I said I don’t want to do another raccoon. I’m going to look up what our state reptile is - the Box-Turtle. Who’s the best thing to come out of Tennessee, Dolly Parton. Why did I make it all pink? Cause of Dolly, it’s all about Dolly,” says Hall.
This opportunity has not only provided the school with excitement, but has helped inspire the students who took part in it.
“It was really amazing to just see my parents’ and my friend’s faces light up when I told them. I was very sure my mom was about to scream, because she did, she called my gammy up immediately screaming at her like ‘AHHHHH!’ It felt so great. It just really solidified this is what I’m doing with my life,” says Hill.
The ornaments will be on display through January 1st, after which they will be archived by the National Park Service.