By T.J. Walter Posted December 15, 2010, 2:50 PM EST
WASHINGTON The Obamas kicked off the 2010 holiday season on Thursday night with the annual National Tree Lighting ceremony. More than 10,000 people braved the frigid temperatures on the Ellipse to watch the new, ramped-up, TV-worthy production that, for the first time, featured a covered stage.
The 2009 ceremony ushered in a plethora of firsts for the ceremony, including a TV airing on PBS stations across the country, new energy-efficient LED lights on the national Christmas tree, and a family-friendly 5 p.m. start time, and all of these changes were carried over to this year’s ceremony.
One of the biggest changes to the ceremony this year was the three-tiered, covered stage supplied by Event Tech. With the ceremony being televised and given the uncooperative weather years past, the organizers brought in a new stage not only to allow the show to go on during inclement weather, but also for the rehearsals. From a technical standpoint, the new stage allowed for a huge jump in the production level, as all of the lighting and scenic elements were rigged from the roof and kept under cover in the days leading up to the ceremony, according to Event Tech's Mike Aug. Attendees also had better viewing opportunities thanks to the two 12- by 21-foot LED walls supplied by Performance Video Systems that were next to the stage.
The 87th annual lighting was presented by the National Park Service and National Parks Foundation, and many of the past vendors continued their long tradition of working on the national event, including sponsor Underwriters Laboratories. New York-based Alex Coletti Productions returned to produce and direct the entertainment portion of the ceremony, which featured host Common along with musical acts B.B. King, Maroon 5, Sara Bareilles, Ingrid Michaelson, Jackie Evancho, and Jim James.
Hargrove Inc. also returned for the 56th year, handling the decor, fabrication, and scenic elements on the 42-foot-tall Colorado blue spruce tree and the state trees, along with the graphics and signage at Santa’s Workshop. This year also marked the first time Hargrove did not install custom ornaments on the tree, instead using LED lights and ornaments that are available to consumers.