Christmas spirit comes early to KSD

Published 6:41 am Friday, November 2, 2018

Twelve special Christmas ornaments made by Kentucky School for the Deaf students are on their way to Washington, D.C., to be a part of the National Christmas Tree display this year.

For the first time, KSD and Kentucky School for the Blind in Louisville were invited to create one-of-a-kind ornaments to represent the commonwealth in the 2018 National Christmas Tree display on the Ellipse in President’s Park in the nation’s capital.

Robin Hart/
Savannah Brock and Savannah Vickery inspect an ornament they painted.

Their handcrafted ornaments will adorn one of 56 smaller trees that surround the National Christmas Tree, which represent each U.S. state, territory and the District of Columbia, as part of the “America Celebrates” display, according to a news release.

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The America Celebrates display is one of the highlights of the National Christmas Tree experience, which will begin on Nov. 28 with the 96th Annual National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony.

There were 56 schools asked to create ornaments that celebrate their state, district or territory.

Through a partnership with the National Park Service, the U.S. Department of Education worked with state art and education agencies to identify middle and high schools whose students would create the ornaments. The project is funded by the National Park Foundation.

“I think anytime that KSD or KSB are called to do things that represent the state, we take that very seriously,” said KSD principal Toyah Robey. “And, we’re humbled and honored to be afforded the privilege to represent Kentucky. … It’s also an opportunity for KSD to shine.”

Students in KSD’s elementary, middle and high schools took part in the project, with each school submitting four ornaments.

Students were provided with 5.5-inch plastic globes that they could decorate under specific guidelines, Robey said. For example, no political statements, slogans or school names and mascots could be displayed on the ornaments.

So, the students, with teachers’ guidance, researched what state symbols truly represent Kentucky and not just Danville or central Kentucky, Robey said.

Most people would expect to see a cardinal on a Kentucky ornament, because it’s the state bird. But did you know Kentucky had a state instrument? Robey asked.

“Something I learned is, I did not know the state had a state instrument — the dulcimer,” Robey said. “Thanks to our kids, I now know that.”

Photo by Robin Hart/
Kalissa Purvis proudly holds up an ornament she helped paint.

The 12 globes that were carefully boxed and shipped to Washington D.C. on Thursday, were hand-painted with other Kentucky icons such as Colonel Sanders, a Thoroughbred horse, wheat and corn, and the state seal.

A particular favorite of Robey’s represented Kentucky’s lakes, she said. Holding the globe up, an image of a fish appeared to be swimming over rocks and silt. “It’s just awesome,” Robey said.

The students only had a few days to complete the project. “We had Christmas in October, and then the next day we celebrated Halloween,” Robey said.

The middle-school students especially enjoyed the project. “They got into the theme of things. They put up their Christmas lights and they got into the Christmas spirit to make these.”

When asked if any of the students or staff would be traveling to Washington D.C. to see the display, Robey said, “I wish we could. That would be phenomenal!”

History of the National Christmas Tree

On Christmas Eve of 1923, President Calvin Coolidge walked from the Oval Office to the Ellipse and pushed a button that lit a 48-foot Balsam fir from Vermont, decorated with 2,500 electric bulbs in red, white and green. Ninety-six years later, this annual tradition is still celebrated in Washington, D.C.

Today’s National Christmas Tree is a living Colorado blue spruce from Virginia, which can be seen year-round in President’s Park. The tree is decorated every year with thousands of lights and unique decorations. The National Christmas Tree stands as a daily reminder of the holiday spirit and of this cherished national tradition.


The 2018 National Christmas Tree Lighting is co-presented by the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation. The event kicks of with the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on Nov. 28, and the festivities continue through Jan. 1 at President’s Park in Washington, DC.

Throughout December, the National Christmas Tree and the 56 smaller trees are lit every evening at President’s Park. The lighting is accompanied by live performances by local artists, and opportunities to see the trees and their ornaments up-close. These evenings are free and no tickets are required.

Learn more about this year’s events and how to watch the ceremony online by visiting