Press Release: Gov. Evers, First Lady Host Virtual Tour of 2023 Holiday Decorations at the Wisconsin Executive Residence

Office of Governor Tony Evers
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 21, 2023
Gov. Evers, First Lady Host Virtual Tour of 2023 Holiday Decorations at the Wisconsin Executive Residence

MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers and First Lady Kathy Evers today shared a video tour for Wisconsinites of the 2023 holiday decorations at the Wisconsin Executive Residencethanking local businesses, organizations, and volunteers for their help making the Residence festive this holiday season.

The holiday season is a great time to recognize the many Wisconsinites who’ve helped make Wisconsin the state we are today. Kathy and I are always amazed by the extraordinary efforts of these folks who help us bring cheer, joy, and the spirit of the holiday season to the Executive Residence,” said Gov. Evers. “We’re incredibly grateful for all the outstanding local businesses, volunteers, and organizations who gave their time and energy to decorate the Executive Residence this year, and we’re glad to be able to share their ingenuity, creativity, and hard work for Wisconsinites across our state to experience and enjoy.” 

Each year, thanks to the help of dedicated and creative local businesses and organizations, the Executive Residence is adorned with holiday decorations representing Wisconsin values and traditions. This year’s decorations also dovetail with the 2023 Wisconsin State Capitol Holiday Tree theme, “175 Years of Wisconsinites.” The Executive Residence decorations provide a glimpse into the Wisconsin way of life: decorations honor Wisconsin’s fallen heroes and their loved ones and dedicated service members serving the state and country, pay tribute to local organizations serving Wisconsin’s aging and older communities, including those living with Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias, and recognize those dedicated to looking after and preserving the state’s vital natural areas such as the Wisconsin Ice Age Trail, among other Wisconsinites and their contributions to our state.

A virtual tour of the Executive Residence decorations with the governor and first lady is available here.

Featured throughout the Residence are holiday displays from businesses across Wisconsin. This year, the Residence’s outdoor holiday tree is a 20-foot Balsam Fir donated by Gary Wegner and the Wegner Family Homestead in Butternut. Gary’s father purchased a Christmas tree farm after returning from serving in World War II. After his death in the mid-1980s, the family continued to run the tree farm but have since stopped, and this tree is one of the trees left from the tree farm days. Additionally, on display at the front of the Residence are wreaths donated by Valley View Tree Farm in Burlington, the winners of the 2023 Wisconsin Christmas Tree Producers Association Wreath Contest. At the front entrance of the Residence, Olbrich Botanical Gardens has donated items inspired by this year’s theme for their Holiday Express Model Train and Flower Show, “Homegrown Holiday.” The display features a handcrafted barn quilt, wood-slice ornaments, and fresh evergreen boughs decorated with cranberry garlands.

Upon entering the Executive Residence, guests are greeted in the foyer by a display highlighting the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, which was newly designated as an official part of the National Park System. Created by volunteers from the Ice Age Trail Alliance, this display features a snowy trail with trees dripping in icicle lights and adorned with figurines of woodland creatures and woolly mammoths.

Moving further into the Executive Residence, the ladies’ powder room was decorated by friends of the Wisconsin Executive Residence Foundation and is embellished in pink, gold, and green décor to enhance the existing wallpaper and the mid-19th century floor-to-ceiling glass mirror.

The dining room was decorated by Jada’s Garden in Blue Mounds in a classic red and gold holiday fashion. Jada and her team also decorated the garden evergreen pots in the sunroom.

An annual tradition at the Residence is the Tribute to Our Troops Tree in the reception room. A tradition that began in 2005, this tree honors service members who have served or are currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. The tree is decorated with patriotic red, white, and blue colors and ornaments representing each major branch of the military, as well as ornaments sent in by families honoring their loved ones. Silver angel ornaments are on display in honor of living veterans across the state and those in active service. Gold angel ornaments are also on display in honor of Wisconsin’s fallen service members. Camouflage quilts under the tree provided by the Camo Quilt Project also represent different branches of the military. The reception room also features two other trees that tell the story of the Wisconsin Blue Star Mothers of America and their loved ones. One tree represents the mothers, stepmothers, grandmothers, and caregivers with children and grandchildren who are currently serving or have been honorably discharged and the support they give to troops. Underneath the Wisconsin Blue Star Mothers tree are care packages to be mailed to their loved ones. The other tree represents Wisconsins troops, with now-opened care packages from their loved ones.

Each year, the governor and first lady also decorate one room at the Residence in honor of the six million Americans and more than 120,000 Wisconsinites living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias and the countless caregivers who provide them care and to instill hope for finding the first survivor of Alzheimer’s disease. This year’s display features trees adorned with ornaments of favorite memories shared by Dane County memory café participants, and the window wreaths were created by the Stoughton Dementia Friendly Café. Photos of residents from the Vista West senior living community in Madison, along with their artwork, also decorate the trees and are displayed throughout the room to create a “Forest of Memories. The governor and first lady want to share a special thank you to the staff from Vista West, the Wisconsin Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, the Dane County Memory Cafés, and the Stoughton Dementia Friendly Café for partnering to help decorate this room and for their daily work in serving individuals with dementia and their families.

Additional holiday displays are included in the library, where Orange Tree Imports has brought the theme “Wintry Feathered Friends” to life, featuring elements of moss, delicate branches, and bird nests. The sunroom was decorated by Zander’s Interiors, who created a warm and cozy holiday space with classic red, green, and gold holiday patterns to inspire holiday memories. Finally, in the hallway, seven American Girl Dolls provided by American Girl, which was founded in Middleton in 1986, are on display. These dolls are dressed in garments that showcase the many diverse and beautiful cultural celebrations that families across Wisconsin celebrate each year.

Featured at the Wisconsin State Capitol this year is a 30-foot Balsam Fir donated by Marge Van Heuklon from Rhinelander. The tree was planted in 2005 by the previous homeowners, the Magnus Family, as a memorial to Frank Magnus. Frank and his wife, Grace, lived at the home at the time of his passing. Frank was a World War II Army veteran and dairy farmer, and he served as the Harrison town clerk for 50 years and on the Lincoln County Board for 20 years, including as board chairman. Adorning this year’s State Capitol Holiday tree are hundreds of ornaments made by Wisconsin students reflecting the theme “175 Years of Wisconsinites. Students were asked to find inspiration for their ornaments by reflecting on what Wisconsin means to them and who represents Wisconsin to them—whether it be the 12 Native Nations that call the state home, the early miners who burrowed into the hills and earned the state its nickname of the “Badger State,” or iconic figures from Wisconsin history books, such as artist Georgia O’Keefe, William S. Harley, the co-founder of Harley-Davidson, or Vel Phillips, the first Black woman and person elected to statewide office. The governor suggested it could also be an individual who has made a difference in a student’s life or in their community, such as a parent, grandparent, teacher, librarian, coach, or local hero.

In addition,
as has been the case in years past at the Capitol, below the tree sits a tree skirt designed by Patti Hellenbrand of Lodi and quilted by Cindy Hasse of Cottage Grove, a stainless-steel tree stand fabricated and donated by BouMatic of Madison, and a locomotive circling the base of the tree that was supplied by Ken Lucht of the Wisconsin and Southern Railroad Company.

The 2023 State Capitol Holiday Tree will be on display through Jan. 7, 2024, for members of the public and visitors to enjoy as they visit the Wisconsin State Capitol building. 

An online version of this release is available here.