First Lady Crowns National Tree With Star
WASHINGTON (AP) _ It took two passes in a hydraulic lift, but first lady Barbara Bush finally got close enough to the top of the National Christmas Tree to crown it with a white plastic star Monday.
Mrs. Bush was joined on the somewhat bumpy journey in the hydraulic lift to the top of the 35-foot tree by her 3 1/2 -year-old granddaughter, Marshall, and Joseph Riley, president of the Christmas Pageant of Peace.
The lift operator left the threesome a few feet short on his first try.
Mrs. Bush, who has been topping off the National Christmas Tree every November since 1981, signalled to him to lift them higher, and on the second try she and Riley managed to get a silver pole holding the outsized plastic star in place.
Marshall, seasonally garbed in a bright red dress with a red ribbon in her hair, took it all in stride, waving to her mother, Margaret Bush, and preschool classmates on the ground below.
When the ride downward was briefly halted, Marshall called out cheerfully, but insistently, ″Hey, when are we going down? Get me down here.″
″Perfect,″ pronounced Mrs. Bush as the white cage finally perched on terra firma. She took Marshall over to shake hands and pose for a picture with the lift operator, National Park Service tree worker Kevin Guard.
″I thought she was coming over to chew me out,″ Guard said afterward. ″She just said thanks.″
Guard, 35, was pressed into service when the Park Service found itself with a rented lift, but no operator.
″I was scared to death,″ he said. ″I’m in trees - trim them, cut them down, make them safe.″
Asked how he wound up with the job of hoisting the first lady and kin up to the top of the living Christmas tree, Guard said:
″It just happened. I usually drive a cherry picker. They didn’t have an operator, so I did it.″
Mrs. Bush has said that topping off the tree was one of her favorite duties as the vice president’s wife, and when Riley asked her last year if she wanted to keep doing it, she leapt at the opportunity, becoming the first first lady to do so.
She called Marilyn Quayle, wife of Vice President Dan Quayle, and Mrs. Quayle told her to go right ahead, aides said.
The tree, a Colorado Blue Spruce transplanted to the Ellipse from a farm in York, Pa., in 1978, will be adorned with a 1,000 more white stars - representing President Bush’s ″Thousand Points of Light″ - and several thousand red and blue lights over the next two weeks.
Bush, keeping up a tradition that President Coolidge started in 1923, will throw the switch to light the national tree at nightfall on Dec. 14.