Local Florist, Decorator Brings Christmas Cheer to White House

Updated: Nov. 17, 2020 at 12:37 PM EST
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SWAINSBORO, Ga. (WTOC) - Many people dream of spending a white Christmas in New York City, but for years Jim Roberts has dreamed of Christmas at the White House.

“I mean I’ve always watched it on TV, but I never knew the process or who did the decorating, I thought maybe it was an inside kind of deal,” Roberts, who owns Southern Traditions Floral & Gifts, said.

When he found out from a friend how to join the White House Christmas decorating crew, he applied immediately.

“On that specific day you wait all day long, wait for that email to come across. And so the first year I applied I got a rejection letter, which was devastating of course," the Swainsboro business owner said. "The second year I applied I got the acceptance, and I when I got it I just kept staring at the screen because I couldn’t believe it was actually an acceptance.”

In 2019, he spent the week of Thanksgiving working long hours to decorate the diplomatic room, the china room, the library, the map room and other spots around the home.

“I was staring at George Washington’s face the whole time I was doing the mantle, so that was awesome,” Roberts said.

This year, Roberts' application was accepted again, but that doesn’t mean he has a better idea of what to expect. He says he won’t find out the rooms he’s working on, the people he’s working with, or the theme until he arrives this Sunday.

“This year is totally different, so you just have to go in and you just have to listen," Roberts said. "They have a team that goes through, and they get to meet with the first lady and pick the theme, but we don’t know what the theme is until we get there, and then we sign a disclosure that we can’t disclose it until she reveals it to the public.”

Roberts says he’s eager to get back to work on making the White House look its best during his favorite time of year.

“I mean you just go through so many different emotions. You’re excited, you’re scared, you don’t' know what to expect. Ever since I was a small child, I decorated my mom’s tree, my grandparents' tree, I did everybody’s tree that was around me, so Christmas has always been my time," Roberts said. "I mean, I’ve always loved Christmas. It’s just an atmosphere that’s different than other times of the year.”

Roberts says he did meet the first lady last year, when Melania came to thank all of the volunteers.

If you want to learn more about what its like to decorate at the White House, you can watch the full interview between Roberts and our show’s producer below:

The White House shared more about its 2019 Christmas decorations here.

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