Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and first lady Yumi Hogan are ringing in the holidays Saturday with an annual holiday open house at the governor’s mansion, and the weather is expected to cooperate this year.
The public is invited to tour the historic house, peruse the ornate holiday decorations and snap a photo with the governor and first lady. Over a thousand people are expected to attend the open house from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday. The Government House will be open exclusively for state employees on Monday, Dec. 9. Cookies and other treats are a feature of the event. The house’s kitchen staff have baked around 13,000 cookies, brownies and bars in preparation for the event.
Some families have been attending the holiday open house at Government House for over 20 years, the first lady said. Two years ago the event was canceled due to bad weather. Nearly 600 people trudged through the snow and waited in line to attend the event anyway.
The weather forecast for Saturday is clear skies.
Garlands, lights and bows wrap the walkway to the 54-room mansion that’s donned in festive wreaths. Stepping inside, visitors will be met by a sprawling staircase decked out in decorations and a grand Douglas fir Christmas tree that stands 14 feet tall. Six rooms are open to public viewing, flowing from the entry hallway to the state dining room, to the drawing-room, reception room and the conservatory. Hogan and the governor will greet guests in the entry hallway.
Fresh flowers fill every room on the house’s first floor. The state dining room is unmistakable with its long dining table donned in a white table cloth and the elaborate crystal chandelier follows a red, pink and white flower theme this year. Barbara Harward-Troska, Government House assistant residence manager, is behind all the flower arrangements.
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Planning for the open house and decoration operation takes three to four weeks to complete, Harward-Troska said. The decorations used to be themed every year but now stay traditional, bringing out some ornaments dating back to Gov. Parris Glendening’s administration in 1994.
“It’s a process,” Harward-Troska, who’s worked at Government House for over 30 years, said. “It’s a well-oiled machine.”
Yumi Hogan personally designs the annual holiday ornament that hangs on two Christmas trees on display in the house. Hogan is an artist with a master’s degree from American University. Although her background is in abstract landscape painting using traditional Korean sumi ink and Hanji paper, she’s adopted the project of designing the commemorative ornament for the past five years.
Hogan’s designs usually incorporate the statehouse or the governor’s mansion, but this year it’s inspired by a vintage fireplace screen displayed in the reception room. The screen is molded after a peacock, an animal that represents peace and love that’s often embroidered on decorative pillows in Hogan’s native South Korea, she said. The backdrop of the ornament resembles the high arching window found in the conservatory. The conservatory is Hogan’s favorite room because the natural light from the windows is best for creating art. She has worked these windows into almost all of her ornament designs.
The 2019 holiday ornament will be sold Saturday during the event for $25. The proceeds go toward a foundation dedicated to the upkeep and preservation of the 151-year-old house. Hundreds of people have bought these ornaments, Hogan said. She usually buys multiple as holiday presents.
Paintings by Maryland artists like David Brewster hang around the house along with paintings of Maryland icons like Fredrick Douglas, which is on display in the spacious red drawing-room. Several high school string quartets and orchestras will perform in the drawing-room Saturday. Visitors can tour the house and view antiques while listening to music by Leonardtown High School, South River High School and Annapolis Symphony Academy students.
Guests should come hungry. The house’s chef has been baking cookies, the centerpiece of the event, all day and night for a week. The kitchen staff has whipped up 23 different types of cookie, ranging from classic chocolate chip to Viennese chocolate to Grinch sugar (it’s green). Cider will also be offered inside and outside the house for those waiting in line to enter the Government House. Past open house visitors have waited over an hour in line to enter the house.