Yes, Deer! UF Alumni help deck the White House’s halls
The unexpected call from the White House came in August. Decorators, planning for this holiday season, requested to use pieces from the Merry-Go-Round Museum in Sandusky, where Kurri Lewis, a 2008 graduate of The University of Findlay, is a curator and woodcarver.
What resulted was the careful transportation and installation of four carousel deer earlier this week in the East Room by Kurri, museum Director Vernonica Vanden Bout, and Lewis’s parents, Colene and Jeff Lewis; the pair are also University graduates and employees, with Colene working as a postal clerk and Jeff in maintenance.
“Who would’ve thought we’d be going to the White House,” said Colene, still excited about the experience days later.
The Folk Art carousel deer, one of which is on loan from the Charlotte Dinger Collection in New Jersey, are in keeping with this year’s Christmas theme, “A Children’s Winter Wonderland.” Located in the White House’s largest room, the rare pieces are “the highlight of the display” in the East Room, the White House’s website explains. That room also features brightly-colored books, three-dimensional paper cut-out ornaments and centerpiece dioramas from paper cut-outs of winter scenes made by artist Jen Lange, the website states.
The Lewis parents have helped Kurri obtain and deliver items to and from the museum, traveling all over the nation. But never before had they been escorted into a residence by the Secret Service, they said.
The White House project required a $1 million insurance rider for the four deer used., Kurri confirmed.
Kurri said 10 pieces were originally considered. White House designers examined photos and written color scheme details for each deer before they made a selection.
All of the Merry-Go-Round Museum’s animals date back to the early 1900s, said Lewis. One of the deer now displayed in the White House was featured on a U.S. Postal Service stamp issued in 1988.
Colene and Jeff were required to return to Findlay for work. But Kurri and his wife, Chantel, were able to attend the White House’s first Christmas party of the season, which was held Monday and included volunteer decorators. Lewis said the event included “live music, military people all over the place helping you get where you wanted to go, and champagne. It was a little different than what we’re used to,” he laughed.
Carousel deer pickup is scheduled for Dec. 30, Lewis said.
“Hopefully, maybe not next year but at another time, the White House will want to use some of our animals again,” said Lewis.
For more information on the Merry-Go-Round Museum, visit http://www.merrygoroundmuseum.org/