The holiday season has arrived at the state Capitol.
Gov. Mary Fallin, with the first gentleman and Santa Claus standing nearby, capped off a day of decorating and festive activities by lighting the state Capitol Christmas tree Thursday evening on the south steps outside the Capitol.
An estimated 1,500 students decorated 36 small Christmas trees throughout the Capitol a couple of hours before more than 2,000 LED lights were lit on the 30-foot-tall artificial tree.
In addition, 100 evergreens in the State Capitol Park were lighted. The trees were donated by the Weyerhaeuser Co. Foundation.
Before the ceremony, Fallin said her Christmas wish for Oklahomans is for everyone to live in peace and happiness.
“My hope is that next year will be even a better year for everyone in Oklahoma,” she said.
Fallin said she and her husband, Wade Christensen, will spend Christmas Eve at the Governor's Mansion, with as many as 70 family members arriving early and staying late.
“Each of our family members brings their favorite dish, and we love to have a big family dinner,” she said. “We'll have a casual evening, watch the different Christmas shows and talk a lot.”
Christmas Day will be a little quieter, with just the immediate first family members gathering at the mansion, she said.
Earlier Fallin and state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi looked at the each of the trees placed along four floors of the Capitol.
“It's fun to go look at the individual trees and see the creativity, the imagination,” Fallin said.
Barresi must have enjoyed seeing the tree decorated by Deer Creek Middle School. At the top of the tree sets an A, which eighth-grader Mollie Patrick said was the score her school received from the new A-F evaluation for public schools that was released last month by the state Board of Education. Some school superintendents and teachers have been critical of the grading system.
Madison Gaches and other fourth-graders at Checotah Intermediate School received a special treat after decorating their tree. State Rep. Jerry McPeak, D-Warner, arranged for the students to go on the floor of the House of Representatives.
Kiana Friesen, an eighth-grader at Fort Cobb-Broxton Middle School, helped decorate her school's tree, which has an American Indian theme. Feathers topped the tree, which has ornaments depicting horses and tepees.
“We wanted to do something different,” said eighth-grader Samantha Wilson.
Mallory Tiser, a sixth-grader at Newman Middle School in Skiatook, was among dozens of students who had her picture taken with Fallin. Her school's tree, called “Reading Wonderland,” featured ornaments depicting the title of books.
Sherrie Redding, the school's assistant principal, said the 560 students in grades, 6, 7 and 8 are being challenged to read 1 million pages of books in both paper and electronic form by the end of the school year. Already, students have read about 360,000 pages; one student alone has read about 18,000 pages.
Redding said she and the school's principal have agreed to have their hair dyed an outrageous color if the students meet the challenge.
The high school student council from the governor's hometown used a more serious theme for their tree. The Tecumseh High School Student Council's tree was decorated in pink and was decorated with ornaments showing pictures of those in the area who are cancer survivors and those who have succumbed to the disease.
Casey Jo Sehon, a Tecumseh High School senior, said she was excited to see Fallin, who gave the students some advice.
“She said that if we work hard and stay in school and do our best that we can end up being governors or whatever we want to be,” Sehon said.