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PRESIDENTIAL DECOR: A Trussville native’s memory of a White House Christmas

PRESIDENTIAL DECOR: A Trussville native’s memory of a White House Christmas

By Shaun Szkolnik, contributing writer TRUSSVILLE — It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas and just as the old song goes, everywhere you go the markings of the holidays are popping up and guiding us through this season of joy, warmth and love. For one Trussville resident, it is also a time to remember five wonderful years spent performing a dream job. From 2003 to 2008 Kaleen Riley was part of a very special and very select team that decorated the White House for Christmas. For Riley, who has a long history of decorating and freelance design, the opportunity was part chance and part having spent years accruing the necessary skills and expertise. “I got to go on a tour there (the White House) one spring break with my family,” said Riley. “My brother-in-law, he was connected to Walter Reed Hospital at the time, scheduled a tour for us, and I just pulled the tour guide aside and asked how you get there [The White House] to work. The guide said it was on a volunteer basis and thousands of people apply. I gave him a little bit about my background and he said to give a resume to him and he would see what he could do.” Riley forwarded her resume. About six months later, she was called by the head White House florist. She was one of 50 chosen to decorate the White House for Christmas. Riley was invited back every year for the remainder of the George W. Bush presidency. The work of decorating the White House began in a warehouse, one week ahead of time. “When we got on the scene at the warehouse, First Lady Laura Bush and her designer already had a plan,” said Riley. “All of our talents (the florists, decorators […]

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