ARAB, Ala. – Randy Harwood has always loved Christmas, and decorating for Christmas has always been one of his passions. This November, he will get to check one big item off his bucket list when he travels to Washington D.C. to help decorate the White House for the holidays.
Harwood was active duty in the Alabama Army National Guard for 23 years before retiring four years ago. He said his love for Christmas decorating started long before that.
“When I was 18 years old, I went to a Christmas play at the church,” he said. “After the play, they had an alter call, and I got saved after the Christmas play. Christmas has just always been my favorite holiday and time of year.”
As for his dream of decorating at the White House, he said, “Being in the military for so long, whoever was the president was my Commander in Chief, that’s how I have always looked at it. Last year, I found out they were taking applications for volunteers and I missed the deadline, so I didn’t even get to apply.”
He was disappointed but knew he had to apply for this year, and he did. He filled out the application on the White House’s website and the site said selections would be made by Sept. 25, 2019. The 25th came and went, so Harwood was a bit disappointed but then had a glimmer of hope.
He said, “After the 25th, I got this email saying that they had so many applications they just weren’t able to meet that deadline and would be sending out notifications shortly.”
A few days later, Harwood checked his email… Out of 8,000 applicants, he was one of 125 selected.
“Chill bumps!” he exclaimed, “This is pretty exciting. How do you get this in your mind that you are actually going to the White House and helping them decorate for Christmas? I’ve always watched the show on HGTV where they show the decorations and they do the little tour of the White House after it’s decorated. I’ve always thought, ‘OH MY GOSH!! If I could just see that in person it would be like amazing! Now I’m going to get to see it AND help!’”
Harwood said he has admired the decorations going back to the Jimmy Carter administration.
He added, “It’s kind of an obsession and it (doesn’t) matter to me who’s in the White House. The amount of work and the amount of detail they put into them… amazing.”
Harwood’s own home will see Christmas trees and decorations a little early this year because during the time he would normally dedicate to his own decorations, he will be in D.C. He will leave the Sunday before Thanksgiving and fly back on Thanksgiving Day.
“We have to go back on the 2nd, which is the Monday after Thanksgiving. The First Lady is having a reception for everybody that helped. I’m not going to miss that for anything!”
Harwood said he has no details about this year’s theme and is excited to find out.
“I can’t believe I actually got selected,” he smiled. “This is a once in a lifetime for me!”
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