Belgian Horse Team Delivers White House Christmas Tree

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“Karry” and “Dempsey” with driver, Scott Harmon

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A matching team of Belgian horses delivered the official White House Christmas tree to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on Monday, Nov. 26, to kick off the holiday season in the nation’s capitol.

The 20-foot-high Fraser Fir was delivered on a four-wheeled wagon driven by Scott Harmon of Meadow Acres Farm in Brandy Station, North Carolina.

Midge Harmon’s team of Belgian draft horses, “Karry” and “Dempsey”, and her son Scott personally carted the 20-foot Frazier fir tree from a drop-point downtown to the White House.

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This is the first time Harmon’s horses have been invited to deliver the official White House Christmas Tree.

“What an honor this was,” Midge Harmon said. “This is probably the biggest thing for a team of horses to be invited to do. I’m really proud and it was always a dream of my (late) husband”.

Harmon’s horses were selected by the White House to deliver the tree earlier this year after they provided hayrides for a congressional picnic on the White House grounds.

In the past, Oxen Hill Farm has traditionally handled the White House Christmas tree procession. However, this year they were not available.

Since the Harmons have trained Oxen Hill drivers and horses for the past 25 years, it turned to the Harmons to pull its wagon this year.

In preparing “Karry” and “Dempsey” for delivery of the White House Christmas tree,  the horses were washed and braided and turned out in full formal harness.

The manes were braided with green and red “flags” that rise above a French braid along the crest of the neck, and the tails were done up in a “Scotch knot.”

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Midge Harmon adorns Belgian draft “Kerry”
after braiding the mane.

The harness were outfitted with sleigh bells, and the black harness itself was polished and every brass buckle shined.

The Fraser Fir tree, so huge that it spilled off the wagon front and back, was bedecked with a big red, white and blue bow. The tree was a gift from Mistletoe Meadows Christmas Tree Farm in Laurel Springs, North Carolina.

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As Laura Bush stepped onto the Portico to accept the special delivery she said, “We’re thrilled that this beautiful tree…is going to be here in the Blue Room.

As Bush admired the 19-year-old evergreen,  Karry and Dempsey waited patiently behind her, nonplussed by photographers’ flashbulbs and television lighting.

“They’re used to all the excitement,” Midge Harmon said of Karry and Dempsey.

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The business provides wedding carriages, festive hayrides and town festival entertainment, and all the farm’s horses are quite serene, even in the excitement of a city street. “They know their job,” she added.

As soon as Bush and Mistletoe Farm owners Linda Jones and Joe Freeman stepped away from the wagon, Midge Harmon stepped in with teamster David Yauch and daughter-in-law Susan Harmon to unhitch Karry and Dempsey from the wagon.

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Shafts unhooked, Scott Harmon urged the pair forward, leaving the wagon and tree for White House staff to unload, and returned to the Harmon horse trailer parked a few blocks away from the White House.

The tree had been shipped from North Carolina via flatbed trailer.

Harmon and his horses met the truck to make the “old-fashioned” delivery, far more romantic, Harmon said, than having a tractor-trailer pull up to the presidential residence.

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Midge Harmon, with her family, grandchildren
and Scott Harmon attending the Belgian Team.

Harmon’s Hayrides has been in operation for 37 years, first in Centreville, and for the past four years in Brandy Station. Harmon owns five teams of Belgian horses, providing hayrides for up to 120 guests at a time and formal carriages for weddings and other events.

Midge Harmon said that all five of the teams will be hard at work to kick off the Christmas season.

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The tradition of placing a decorated tree in the White House began in 1889 during the presidency of Benjamin Harrison.

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Link:  Harmon’s Belgians

Photographic Credits:  Chris Greenberg, Joyce N. Boghosian, Katie Dolac, Scott Harmon

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Friesian Horse Team Joins North Carolina Police Caisson Unit

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North Carolina Trooper Ernest Ramsey Welcomes New Recruit

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The North Carolina Troopers Association (NCTA) strongly believed a horse-drawn caisson unit was a worthwhile project to take on, because it would add an extra measure of dignity and solemnity to funerals of police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty.

The newly formed North Carolina State Highway Patrol Caisson Unit were thoroughly searching for the ideal horse team.

Meanwhile, Janet and Jay Stingel were looking for the perfect retirement home for their Friesian four horse team who annually spent their summers at Mackinac Island.

North Carolina Trooper Ernest Ramsey who spearheaded the creation of North Carolina’s caisson unit worked with Janet and Jay Stingel for their Friesians to become the official North Carolina Caisson Unit team.

For the last ten years, the Islanders had called them “The Boys”.

However, the 22-year-olds, Detlef, Fetse, Kenny, and Fonger, won’t be making the trip north from their winter home at Biltmore Stables in Asheville, North Carolina, because the Stingels have donated them to the newly formed North Carolina State Highway Patrol Caisson Unit.

“We wanted to make sure they would have a good home,” said Janet Stingel. “Keeping the team together” was the couple’s biggest concern, agreed Mr. Stingel.

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The Island trails and demanding hills were a little more than the aging horses could easily handle, he said, but as caisson horses, they will travel only about six blocks with each funeral hearse they pull.

The Stingels were the first to introduce Islanders to the Friesian breed at a time when no more than 1,000 of them lived in the United States, Mr. Stingel said.

With the gift of the Stingel’s Friesian team to the North Carolina Caisson Unit, the state officially has four new troopers.

The Friesian horse team have been assigned badge numbers and are considered North Carolina Troopers and protected under the law.

Each saddle patch displays an official emblem.

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According to Terry Story, NCTA president, the caisson unit is unique and may well be the only state group of its kind in the nation.

Only trained team members with experience working with horses and operating horse team-drawn wagons are authorized to operate the caisson unit.

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In addition to use at police officer and firefighter funerals, the unit also can be used for services for current and past governors of North Carolina, incumbent members of the North Carolina General Assembly, and law enforcement officers from other states killed in the line of duty.

The wagon being used was built by members of the Amish community in Ohio and purchased for $18,000 by Trooper Ramsey as a donation to the NCTA. The wagon was made to exact Civil War specifications and is similar to wagons used in Arlington National Cemetery.

Military personnel from the Arlington National Cemetery have agreed to provide training free of charge for caisson unit members.

Clearly there is much excitement about the new additions to the North Carolina State Patrol.  All are committed to making this caisson unit a first class operation.

As for the Stingels, they are encouraging other Friesian owners to donate their horses to similar noble services