Eminence artist Jennifer Dodson has handcrafted 12 Christmas ornaments that represent Missouri on the National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C., as part of the 95th annual National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on Nov. 30.
Dodson is a retired school teacher and works part-time at the post office in Fremont, Mo. She also paints Christmas ornaments in her free time.
She volunteers at Ozark National Scenic Riverways (ONSR) and does several crafty and artistic things for the park, which is why the ONSR nominated her to design the ornaments.
“When they first asked me, I thought I wasn’t good enough. I looked at myself as a teacher first instead of an artist,” said Dodson.
“I actually made a C in my painting class and I shoved my work under my bed. I now realize it wasn’t that they were bad, it was just personal preference. Because mine didn’t look like theirs I thought it was trashed, but it was good.”
Dodson designed the ornaments to showcase historic structures from national parks and historic sites in Missouri, with an emphasis on the ONSR.
“Historic structures have always fascinated me,” said Dodson.
When she first started making ornaments, she was taking over for her daughter who made personalized snowmen for people.
Dodson creates ornaments of snowmen, historic structures, homesteads, and housewarming ornaments of a family home.
The 12 ornaments will be on one of the 56 trees representing each U.S. state, territory, and the District of Columbia from Dec. 1 through Jan. 1, 2018, in Washington, D.C.
“It is such an honor to decorate my home state tree and help the nation celebrate the holidays in one of our most recognizable national parks. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Dodson.
Dodson said she chose to paint historic structures because they have stood the test of time and have great cultural significance, each with its own story.
The Eminence area was devastated by record flooding in April and Dodson wanted to bring awareness to the recovery the community has made.
“I wanted to celebrate the spirit of recovery and resilience that has been demonstrated by the people of our area and convey the message that although we have been bruised a bit, we are alive and ready for visitors,” said Dodson.
The ornaments depict snow scenes, representing serenity and peace, which encompass many of the parks in the winter months.
The rest of the ornaments represent Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (Gateway Arch), Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site (White Haven), Harry S. Truman National Historic Site (Truman Home), George Washington Carver National Monument (Moses Carver House), Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield (Ray House), and Mark Twain National Forest (Falling Spring Mill).
“When I started painting these I was overwhelmed with all the sites I had to choose from. How fortunate are we to have all these places to visit in our state?” said Dodson.
On the back of each ornament, the state of Missouri is painted and there is a dot on the state showing the location of each featured site.
Dodson painted these sites on six-inch ornaments, and each ornament took approximately four hours to complete from start to finish.
“I work part-time, and this is my second job. I paint from the moment I get home until about 10 p.m. It is quite the undertaking,” said Dodson.
She has received several orders for ornaments and is currently backlogged up until May on orders, if not longer.
“People can order the whole set of the 12 ornaments I made or they can order individual ones,” said Dodson.
The six-inch ornaments are $55 each and the four-inch ornaments will be slightly less expensive.
As of right now, Dodson said she will not be getting the original ornaments back from Washington.
“We are told that they are archived and saved for future use, but we are trying to get them back to use on the ONSR headquarters tree,” said Dodson.
“I would love to get them back and then go and present the other ornaments to the parks that I painted.”
Dodson also has her work displayed on a mural of Alley Spring and Rocky Falls in the Shannon County Courthouse, in a children’s waiting room at the courthouse, and also at a convenience store in the area.
Presented by the National Park Service and National Park Foundation, the National Christmas Tree Lighting is one of America’s oldest holiday traditions.
The first lighting took place 95 years ago on Christmas Eve in 1923, when President Calvin Coolidge lit a Christmas tree in front of 3,000 spectators on the Ellipse.
Since 1923, each succeeding president has carried on the tradition.