Governor’s Mansion holiday tours will be available in early December

Dear Santa,

If you are wondering what to get Gov. Jay Inslee for Christmas, don’t ask first lady Trudi Inslee for advice.

“Oh my gosh, no. I have no idea,” Trudi Inslee said. “He makes a nice long list.”

While she’s waiting for that list, Trudi Inslee will be overseeing the decoration of the Governor’s Mansion on the Capitol Campus. The public can get a free, up-close view of the decorations on three consecutive Wednesdays in December starting Dec. 3. Seventeen tours will be offered at the 1908 Georgian-style mansion overlooking Capitol Lake.

While the first lady has chosen red and gold as this year’s color theme, the decorations are being installed by orange is the new black.

Offenders from the Washington Corrections Center For Women in Purdy will for the second year convert the mansion into its holiday theme. The prison has an ornamental horticulture program that bids on floral arrangements for funerals, weddings and special events.

Outside, the mansion’s columns will be wrapped in cedar garlands and lights. Flower boxes, now still bearing autumn decorations, will be filled with holiday-themed decorations. Garlands will be placed around the doors and wreaths will be put on the mansion’s windows.

“We don’t go overboard on fancy things,” Trudi Inslee said. “We like it to look homey and natural.”

Inside, garlands will be placed on mantels and more wreaths will be put on windows.

The entire thematic display is funded from the fees paid by groups that hold events at the mansion during the year.

The nonprofit Washington Governor’s Mansion Foundation will put up and decorate a tree in the mansion’s ballroom. It’s typically the state tree, the Western Hemlock, and almost reaches the 20-foot ceiling. The tree will carry the first lady’s red and gold theme.

The mansion’s more intimate family room gets a tree as well. Last year, students from around the state made ornaments for that tree that were representative of their geographic region.

“This year, we asked them to make birds. We’ll see what we get,” Trudi Inslee said. Eight schools, from elementary to high school level, are making 300 ornaments. Some of the schools have already arranged to take a field trip to see their ornaments on the tree.

The holiday swag isn’t just for tours or the Inslees.

“We always remind people that we don’t live down here, we live upstairs. This is their house, this is the people’s house,” Trudi Inslee said.

“We have a lot of activities here during (December.) We have some kind of reception here almost every day,” she said. Some of those are hosted by the governor but many are held by nonprofits and other state agencies.

While tour groups aren’t likely to spot Santa they just might see the first lady.

“If I’m here while there’s a tour I’ll often come down. But the docents do a good job of explaining everything,” she said.

The Inslees, who still maintain their home on Bainbridge Island, have yet to decide if they’ll spend Christmas there or at the mansion. When their children were young, the family would take a trip to the mountains for sledding and tree-cutting. Now, those children are grown and have kids of their own.

Which, the first lady said, is what’s probably No. 1 on the governor’s Christmas list.

“I think what he really wants is to spend time with the grandchildren.”