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Christmas At The Mansion

December 4, 2013, 10:00 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Christmas At The Mansion

With a few trees here, some garland there, there's a lot of space to decorate at Christmas time inside the South Dakota Governor's Mansion. But First Lady Linda Daugaard doesn't necessarily want it to feel like a big space.

"I want people to feel at home here. I want it to be nice and not stark or staged. I want it to just feel comfortable here and homey," Daugaard said.

So alongside Christmas decorations, you'll find family pictures. Like any grandparent, the governor and first lady make sure to show off their grandkids in the mansion as well.

From the minute people walk in the front door, Daugaard hopes people enjoy the Christmas displays throughout the mansion. Some already have this year.

"It was so much fun to watch their faces as they walked in the front door and saw everything decorated for Christmas," Daugaard said.

It's a large task, one that starts, Daugaard says, with a lot of help.

"It's so nice to have help, it really is. To have someone, Linda our house manager, in charge of the whole project, within a week they have it done and it just looks fabulous," Daugaard said.

The governor's office in the mansion receives a Christmas overhaul, so do several other rooms.

Employees complete the work in the public part of the mansion. But that doesn't mean the governor gets to avoid climbing a ladder and holding decorations up against the wall, moving them one way or another until his wife determines a perfect spot for them.

"No, we still have the private side to decorate so Dennis will help me with that," Daugaard said.

Back on the public side, decorations have been up since about Thanksgiving and will stay through December.

Access to the public changes from year to year. In 2011, the Daugaards hosted workers from a variety of state agencies throughout the season. Last year the mansion was open to public tours. This year the Daugaards will have state workers over for brunch or tea.

Daugaard hopes visitors enjoy the decorations and the tradition. She says some decorations date back decades.

"I think if some of the other former first families came in they'd say, 'oh, I remember that.' So that's what's nice too," Daugaard said.

Daugaard says there'll be some new decorations added from time to time as well. But it's not so much those decorations but the time she spends with family in the mansion around Christmas that's important.

That's why she says her favorite part of the Christmas display is in a room with a fireplace on the second story of the mansion. That’s where she and her siblings spent a lot of time talking when they came for Thanksgiving. It's also where she's spent a lot of time with grandchildren and others.

"This was one of the first places we came and sat when we moved here and enjoyed this area and there's no television, no outside interruptions," Daugaard said.

That room is only one part of Christmas at the mansion, an experience the first lady hopes will make people feel right at home.

Daugaard says because of her allergies, all the trees in the mansion are artificial. There are both real and fake trees in the South Dakota Capitol Building.

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