HIGHLAND | A Highland man's handiwork is on display among the lights, garland, trees and bows adorning the White House this Christmas.
Kent Witt, 40, spent five days there, arranging fresh cedar and ornament clusters, among other adornments, in line with this season's White House-chosen theme, "Gather Around."
The idea is Christmas is a time to gather with friends and family and enjoy the season's blessings, he said.
This is the second year Witt applied and was accepted as part of the holiday decorating team. White House staff tries to select people representing different parts of the country to trim the interior, he said.
"I was very honored to be asked back," he said.
Witt, who grew up in Lansing and graduated from Illiana Christian High School, has no formal floral training.
"It's always been a passion of mine," he said. "It's just a God-given talent."
Witt works as a floral designer at Sid's Flowers & More in Palos Hills, Ill. Shop owner Rita Schaafsma said Witt is especially known for his displays.
"He's just tops in display work," she said.
Last Christmas, Witt was part of a team that focused on decorating the Blue Room at the White House.
This time, he focused on the Lower Cross Hall, Palm Room and Diplomatic Reception Room. The Lower Cross Hall is a particularly well-traveled area that connects areas of the building.
And although presidential sightings are rare, Witt had an encounter.
"I actually had the privilege of meeting the president this time," he said. "It all happened so quickly. I was not expecting to meet him, but it was in the back of my mind."
Witt was told it was the first time in six years President Barack Obama made an appearance as decorators were working.
There's some pressure associated with the holiday decorating, as influential leaders are among the White House visitors.
Witt said he's not sure whether he will apply to help decorate the White House again next year, but he hopes to return at some point.