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Dreaming of a White House Christmas

Decking the halls of the White House with boughs of holly was “a dream come true” for Linda Goldfarb.

But a missed deadline was nearly a missed opportunity for the former Rogue Valley resident to trim the trees in the East Wing of America’s most famous residence.

She says she still can’t believe she was selected from about 7,000 applicants to join the army of more than 150 volunteers from 29 states decorating the White House for the holidays. She admits the corps of interior designers, floral designers, event planners, military veterans, military wives and Gold Star families pulling together to create the holiday extravaganza in less than two weeks was a bit of a miracle on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The end result, she says, is “spectacular.”

Goldfarb moved away from Ashland five years ago but still has ties to the Rogue Valley. She and her husband still have a condo in Medford, and he works as a pharmacist for Walmart here.

For the current resident of the tiny Oregon seaside village of Gearhart, being a part of executing First Lady Melania Trump’s concept of “American Treasures” was “an amazing opportunity of a lifetime.”

A week after returning from Washington D.C., Goldfarb is overwhelmed with emotions as she reflects on the interior decorating job she calls the “icing on the cake” of her 30-year career.

Goldfarb, who owns and operates an interior design business and gift shop in Gearhart, says she sent in her application and resume in August only after a card designer and client encouraged — or as she puts it “pestered” — her to do so. While on an extended vacation in Italy with her sister, Goldfarb never gave it a second thought.

When she returned from Europe in October, she discovered a congratulatory note from the White House buried in the pile of emails she never touched while on vacation.

“I screamed,” she says recalling her first reaction at being selected as one of the decorators.

Then she read further. She had already missed the RSVP deadline.

“My heart sank,” she says. “I went from an incredible high to an incredible low.”

She went ahead and sent in her confirmation anyway, and it was accepted.

Goldfarb heard through the grapevine that every application was thoroughly scrutinized, and she isn’t sure what on her resume “clicked” with reviewers.

An interior designer and decorator for 30 years, Goldfarb worked in the Rogue Valley for 20 years before moving to the north Oregon coast. She also decorated trees for the Providence Festival of Trees in Medford for 13 years.

She thinks her family’s ties to the military may have played a part in her winning the job.

“My father was a Navy captain for 30-plus years, my son was in Special Ops for eight years, and I come from a long line of members of the Daughters of the American Revolution.”

However it came to be, it was “an honor to be chosen,” she says, adding that she was the only volunteer from Oregon.

Goldfarb says the volunteer decorators had to commit to several days before and after the Thanksgiving holiday to complete the task.

Her area was the Grand Foyer of the East Wing and the hallway that leads to the States Dining Room.

Before actually beginning work on the “American Treasures” theme envisioned by Mrs. Trump and head designer Nick Watts, volunteers worked in a warehouse pulling out, repairing and repurposing decorations from Christmases past.

The hundreds of red balls in various sizes that Goldfarb and her team used in the garlands hanging in the Grand Foyer and wrapped around the room’s massive columns had to be salvaged and repaired. So did the hundreds used to decorate the 29 trees lining the hallway leading to the States Dining Room.

Red balls not only hung on every tree, but red balls ranging from one inch to 10 inches in diameter were strung together to create a unique tree skirt for each tree.

“There was a lot of hard work done in wiring and gluing the four-foot garlands that made up the tree skirts,” says Goldfarb.

All told, approximately 14,000 red ornaments were hung with care in the Grand Foyer and hallway.

All the trees throughout the White House were real trees, including the controversial blood-red berry trees lining the East Wing corridor.

“It took a team of about 20 almost a week to assemble those trees,” says Goldfarb.

“They are more beautiful in person, and create an awesome path that leads to the Gold Star Family Tree.”

Goldfarb has no photos of the massive gingerbread replica of the National Mall that features white-icing-covered Jefferson and Lincoln memorials, the Washington Monument, Capitol and the White House.

“It took 10 people to carry it in,” she says. “But I was 12 feet up on a ladder stringing lights. I only saw it from overhead.”

The gingerbread National Mall is now on display in the State Dining Room.

Goldfarb says that as she wandered the White House she had to keep reminding herself where she was ... “I was actually in the White House.”

“It was wonderful to see the displays on my way up to the main floor where Christmas cards of our past and present presidents and their families are on display, as well as the china that different presidents used.”

“Every First Lady has put her touch” on the various rooms, she added.

While the White House was “truly a warm and inviting home,” Goldfarb couldn’t help but be awestruck by the history in every nook and cranny.

“(The White House) is living history,” she says. “Our living history.”

Having done a bit of renovation on historic homes, she remarked how “extraordinary” attention has been paid to detail.

One room that especially caught her fancy was the Blue Room, which was not named because of blue wallpaper, as she previously thought. The “wallpaper,” she says, was created by stretching blue silk, wetting it down, and then allowing the blue dye to streak down the walls.

Goldfarb and the volunteers finished the holiday decorating just in time for Mrs. Trump’s walk-through Nov. 26.

“We were putting finishing touches on at 5 she came through at 6.”

Mrs. Trump hosted a reception in the States and East Wing dining rooms for the design team, decorators and all the volunteers, including ones who work year-round at the White House.

“She was very gracious and kind,” Goldfarb says of Mrs. Trump.

Although she took one extra day before flying home to Oregon, Goldfarb saw very few of the sights of the nation’s capital.

I went to Old Town Alexandria ... very adorable ... like Jacksonville on steroids,” she says. “And, of course, I stopped in the national DAR headquarters for my mother.”

She says she had little time to play tourist.

“We typically worked from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. most days,” she says. “I was too exhausted. But, oh, it was so worth it!”

An estimated 25,000 people will visit the White House this holiday season and see the fruits of her labor.

Reach Grants Pass freelance writer Tammy Asnicar at tammyasnicar@q.com.

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