Butler High School teacher selected to help decorate White House for Christmas
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Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013

Butler High School teacher selected to help decorate White House for Christmas

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/12/12/17/57/mlABa.Em.138.jpeg|421
    - COURTESY OF JANET PREVATT
    Butler High School teacher Janet Prevatt was one of 85 people chosen from across the U.S. to help decorate the White House for Christmas.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/12/12/17/57/30zSJ.Em.138.jpeg|237
    - COURTESY OF JANET PREVATTE
    After picking up her official White House apron and badge, Janet Prevatte signs her name among all the other volunteer names on an apron that will be stored in the White House archives.
  • Learn more: HGTV will present “White House Christmas 2013,” at 8:15p.m. Dec.15. Prevatte was interviewed by HGTV host Genevieve Gorder but said she doesn’t know if her segment will air. You may see some of her work if you look carefully; she made the bows for the wreaths that hang on the doors of the Oval Office and the bows that hang on the wrought-iron gates outside the White House.

Butler High School family and consumer science teacher Janet Prevatte recently crossed two items off her bucket list: she visited the White House and shook the hand of President Barack Obama.

Getting to decorate the president’s house for Christmas was icing on the cake.

Prevatte was one of 85 people from throughout the country chosen to help decorate the White House for the holidays.

“A couple years ago, I saw Christmas at the White House on HGTV. Last August, I Googled it. They were looking for people with artistic flair and an eye for design.

“I downloaded the application and sent it in, along with some pictures of my work,” Prevatte said.

She was notified of her selection in October but had to keep it secret until the official White House news release was issued Dec.4.

Prevatte flew to Washington, D.C., on Thanksgiving Day. Volunteers were briefed on their assignments that evening, and Prevatte and 12 others were assigned to decorate the Lower Cross Hall.

A Chicago design firm had drawn up a decorating plan and had supplies on hand, but it was up to Prevatte and her group to assemble the pieces and hang them.

Assembly took two days in an offsite warehouse. The group spent hours creating Christmas ornament clusters with purple, copper, red, fuchsia, silver and gold balls. The balls were hot-glued together and then wired on an archway of fresh greenery.

Putting all the decorations in place took another three days of working in the White House. It was during one of those days, while Prevatte was working in the Palm Room – a sunroom that provides a connection to the Oval Office – that Obama walked through and shook her hand.

“I had always wanted to meet a president and always wanted to go to the White House. This was a dream come true. When he left the room, I just cried,” Prevatte said.

Decorating was finished the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. On that Wednesday evening, the volunteers were invited to a formal reception.

“We walked in and it was overwhelming. The florists had added breathtaking fresh flowers,” said Prevatte. “All the trees and the greenery were real and the smells were just fabulous. There were choirs singing, a small brass ensemble playing, two huge buffets – everything just came together at once. It was truly an emotional experience.”

Michelle Obama made a brief appearance at the gala to thank the volunteers, and Prevatte got to shake her hand as well.

Prevatte flew home Dec.5 and returned to the classroom the following Monday.

She said it still is hard to believe she got to help decorate the most famous house in America; but lest anyone doubt, she has an official green “2013 Holidays at the White House” apron, a ton of pictures and memories to last a lifetime.

Melinda Johnston is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Melinda? Email her at m.johnston@carolina.rr.com.

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