This year’s Christmas tree in front of the U.S. Capitol will have a little Arizona sunshine thanks to Daniela Nunez.
A fourth-grader at Moon Mountain Elementary School, Nunez fashioned an orange, yellow and red foam sun as Gov. Jan Brewer visited her art class Thursday, kicking off an effort to have schoolchildren produce ornaments for an Arizona blue spruce that’s heading to Washington.
“We had some examples, but I made mine kinda different,” Nunez said, pointing to a page of sun designs.
Brewer praised creations of clay, foil and foam, then drew gasps from Nunez and others when she told students the tree needs 5,000 ornaments. She quickly clarified that many schools around the state are participating.
“This is absolutely wonderful for the state of Arizona,” Brewer told a school assembly, noting that it’s the first time a Christmas tree from Arizona will stand in front of the U.S. Capitol.
Since 1964, the U.S. Forest Service has selected a state each year to provide the Capitol Christmas Tree, also referred to as The People’s Tree.
Jim Payne, an Arizona-based Forest Service spokesman, said Arizona’s tree is 125 years old and stands in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in the eastern part of the state.
All ornaments need to be non-religious and preferably made from recycled material, Payne said.
“And they need to be weatherproof,” he added.
Each student creating an ornament can enter a drawing for a free trip to attend the tree-lighting ceremony in Washington.
Nunez’s art teacher, Phyllis Tudi, walked around the classroom during Brewer’s visit, helping students perfect their ornaments.
“I talked to the class Monday, and we brainstormed what to make,” Tudi said. “They were super excited. A lot of the kids can’t relate to winter weather, so we discussed what would work and how these ornaments would hold up.”
He students also made aluminum foil cowboy boots, clay hummingbirds and coyotes. Some ornaments were shaped like the state of Arizona.
While many students thought it was cool that their ornaments would be seen by millions visiting the Capitol during the holiday season, they seemed more excited to see Brewer.
“See, I told you the governor was a female,” one of Tudi’s students told a classmate, prompting giggles.
Students gave the governor a rock star welcome when she entered the assembly, cheering and applauding wildly.
“I don’t usually get to be in crowds as enthusiastic as you!” she said.