A 43-year GE Tradition
Washington, D.C., Nov. 28, 2005 -- For the designers and decorators of the National Christmas Tree, the process of getting ready for the holidays actually begins around Valentine's Day. Since 1962, GE has donated the lights, design and ornaments for the National Tree, which will shine this year as a tribute to the glistening beauty of the winter season.
On Thursday, December 1 at 5:50 p.m., during a 5 p.m.-to-6 p.m. entertainment program, President and Mrs. George W. Bush will "flip" the switch to illuminate the nation's tree - a 40-foot Colorado blue spruce that grows on the Ellipse between the White House and Washington Monument. When the President flips the switch, the national tree will be ablaze in 25,000 clear lights. The light will be punctuated with 105 three-dimensional, snowflake-shaped ornaments, that are each 18" x 18" in size, and lit from within with brilliant clear lights. These impressive snowflakes are made with lightweight GE Lexan® resin, and accented with blue holographic film. The topper to the tree is similarly designed, with a multi-dimensional Lexan® snowflake nearly standing a majestic four- feet tall.
"Decorating the national Christmas Tree has become a holiday tradition for GE, and one we are proud to participate in," said Kathy Presciano, lighting designer for GE and designer of the national Christmas Tree for 11 years. "We like to think of it as the nation's symbol of Christmas-a symbol we can all look to and remember the blessings we all share as Americans. This year's tree brings that message home with a tribute to the beauty that the winter snows bring to this season," she added.
Also adorning the tree are more than 120 snowflake-shaped holographic sun catchers to give the tree its daytime glitter. Needless to say, a tree of such splendor requires more planning than a trip up the attic stairs to rummage through boxes of old holiday ornaments and light sets. Instead, Presciano met for the first time in late February with the Christmas Pageant of the Peace -- a nonprofit organization that sponsors the entertainment program and national lighting ceremony - to discuss the 2005 tree. She began conceptualizing the design in early spring.
"While many dream of the beach, I think about the December holidays," she said. "Planning and carrying out the design for the National Tree takes nearly a year, involving multiple steps and dozens of behind-the-scenes workers."
Decorating the National Tree - A Look from Behind the Scenes
The nearly 10-month process of designing the tree has involved the cooperation, planning, product donations and time of two GE businesses - GE Consumer & Industrial of Louisville, Ky., and GE Advanced Materials of Pittsfield, Mass. -- and several companies across multiple states that have helped mold, manufacture and decorate the ornaments. The collaborations began in July.
Elaborate computer designs based on Presciano's sketches were first sent to Senior Project Engineer Greg Tremblay at GE Advanced Materials in Pittsfield, Mass., where Tremblay devised the technological blue print for molding the ornaments out of GE Lexan® resin - a lightweight plastic technology used in everything from CDs to NASCAR stock car windshields.
"The key is to keep the ornaments lightweight so not to damage the branches of the nation's tree," said Tremblay. "This year, we used vacuum molding technology to create those three dimensional snowflakes. This is the same technology used to make blister packs that protect children's toys - like Barbie dolls and G.I. Joes."
August - September:
In August, Tremblay worked with two local, family-owned businesses to create the snowflake-shaped molds needed for transforming sheets of Lexan® resin into holiday ornaments. Like molds for traditional blister packs, these were made from aluminum.
After molds were cut, it took a week for a team at GE Advanced Materials to transform 3,000 square feet of Lexan® resin into 225 18" x 18". Snowflake ornaments-with 100 of these ornaments used on smaller replicas of the National Tree in Fairfield, Conn., and Cleveland, Ohio, where GE has corporate offices.
"To create the ornaments, we heated the sheets of Lexan® to more than 400-degrees Fahrenheit and placed them over the molds, which vacuum sucked the plastic into the snowflake-shaped cut-outs through tiny holes at the base of the mold," Tremblay explained. "This step took about one minute per snowflake."
Once molded, the snowflakes made their final journey in late October back to Cleveland, where Brilliant Electric Sign Co. worked furiously to assemble the snowflakes and get them ready to ship by mid-November to Washington D.C.
Once in Washington, a Maryland-based business spent the remaining time leading up to the Dec. 2 ceremony installing the lights and snowflakes. Following the installation, Presciano and Tremblay could surely breathe a collective sigh of relief.
GE Consumer & Industrial: GE Consumer & Industrial spans the globe as an industry leader in major appliance, lighting and integrated industrial equipment, systems and services. Providing solutions for commercial, industrial and residential use in more than 100 countries, GE uses innovative technologies to deliver comfort, convenience and electrical protection and control. www.geconsumerandindustrial.com.
About GE - Plastics
GE - Plastics is a global supplier of plastic resins widely used in automotive, healthcare, consumer electronics, transportation, performance packaging, building & construction, telecommunications, and optical media applications. The company manufactures and compounds polycarbonate, ABS, SAN, ASA, PPE, PC/ABS, PBT and PEI resins, as well as the LNP* line of high-performance specialty compounds. GE - Plastics, Specialty Film & Sheet manufactures high-performance Lexan sheet and film products used in thousands of demanding applications worldwide. In addition, GE - Plastics' dedicated Automotive organization is an experienced, world-wide competitor, offering leading plastics solutions for five key automotive segments: body panels and glazing; under the hood applications; component; structures and interiors; and lighting. As a Worldwide Partner of the Olympic Games, GE is the exclusive provider of a wide range of innovative products and services that are integral to a successful Games.
History of the National Christmas Tree: The National Christmas Tree lighting originated in 1913 and has been lighted by the U.S. President for the past 91 years, except: during the period of war between 1942 and 1944, when the tree had no lights and the 1980 Iran hostage crisis, when President Jimmy Carter lighted only the tree-top star. On Jan. 20, 1981, following President Ronald Reagan's inauguration and release of hostages, the tree was lighted briefly.
History of Holiday Lighting: In 1882, the first electric-lighted Christmas tree was decorated in patriotic hues and unveiled outside of the New York City home of Thomas Edison's colleague, Edward Johnson. The first trees like this could only be afforded by the wealthy -- like banking baron JP Morgan, who built his own generator to run such displays. This holiday season marks the 101st anniversary of the first pre-wired holiday light sets offered to the public by GE in 1903. Even then, a set of lights could cost the average worker his week's wages. These days, however, affordability is no longer the issue for most, and today's enthusiasts are more concerned with how to create the best displays using effects, like twinkling, fading or chasing patterns.
GE Consumer & Industrial spans the globe as an industry leader in major appliance, lighting and integrated industrial equipment, systems and services. Providing solutions for commercial, industrial and residential use in more than 100 countries, GE Consumer & Industrial uses innovative technologies and "ecomagination," a GE initiative to aggressively bring to market new technologies that help customers and consumers meet pressing environmental challenges, to deliver comfort, convenience and electrical protection and control. General Electric (NYSE: GE) brings imagination to work, selling products under the Monogram®, Profile(TM) GE®, Hotpoint®, SmartWater(TM) Reveal® and Edison(TM) consumer brands, and Entellisys(TM) industrial brand. For more information, consumers may visit www.ge.com.
Greg Tremblay, project engineer, GE - Plastics, shows local schoolchildren how ornaments are created for the National Christmas Tree. GE - Plastics created 105 three-dimensional, snowflake-shaped ornaments, that are each 18" x 18" in size, and lit from within with brilliant clear lights. These impressive snowflakes are made with lightweight GE Lexan® resin, and accented with blue holographic film. The topper to the tree is similarly designed, with a multi-dimensional Lexan® snowflake nearly standing a majestic four- feet tall.