Local woman donates Christmas tree for governor's mansion

Photo by Nate McCullough

Photo by Nate McCullough

COVINGTON -- Poets and philosophers have observed for centuries variations on the theme of "Mighty oaks from little acorns grow," and JoAnn Sims of Covington has definitely proven the adage true once again.

Her "mighty" tree is headed for a place of honor at the Georgia Governor's Mansion this Christmas and will be the star of the show when the official lighting ceremony takes place at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 5. The Newton County tree will blaze with lights on the front lawn of the mansion throughout the holiday season.

Sims said she got the idea to donate her huge cedar tree to the state when she saw last year's event and thought to herself, "I've got a better tree than that. Maybe it will be suitable for next year," she said.

She asked a relative to help her contact the state and offer her tree. The Georgia Building Authority received the call and, according to spokesperson Katy Pandow, when officials took a look at Sims' tree, they agreed it was indeed a tree worthy of honor and told her they'd be happy to accept her gift.

A crew showed up at Sims' house on Ga. Highway 142 early Wednesday morning with a crane, saws and a huge truck to transport the tree, estimated to weigh 3,800 pounds, to the governor's front yard.

Sims had predicted she'd tear up when the tree left her yard, but it would also be a happy time.

"It's just a thrill to know it's going up the road to the Governor's Mansion and that it came from Newton County," she said. "I know it will make a lot of other people happy."

Sims said there are many memories attached to the tree. When her home was built in 1980, she and her son, Timothy, then 7 years old, went to a wooded area and dug up two small cedar trees about a foot tall. They planted them in flower pots until they were established.

"I told my son, just throw them out in the yard and maybe they'll grow and we'll decorate them for Christmas sometime," she said. One of the trees struggled and "never did do much," Sims said, but the other one thrived and grew into the tree that 30 years later will be decorated for all to see.

The Georgia Governor's Mansion is located at 391 West Paces Ferry Road and the lighting ceremony is free and open to the public. Also, tours of the mansion decked out in Christmas finery will be held Dec. 6-17, Mondays through Fridays, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. Reservations are required for parties of 10 or more. Call 404-261-1776 for more information.