Brewster couple attends White House Christmas party
WORTHINGTON -- For three weeks during the height of the campaign season, DFL political activist Deb Hogenson of Brewster took time off work to knock on doors and encourage people to get out and vote. She spends countless hours volunteering to promote Democratic candidates and has a passion not just for politics, but for history.
So when an invitation arrived in her mailbox in mid-November to attend a Christmas party at the White House, Hogenson was thrilled to have an opportunity to visit such an historic site and once again be in the same room as President Barack Obama.
Nominated by a fellow volunteer in the Obama Minnesota campaign, Hogenson and a guest -- her husband, Douglas Bauman -- were invited to a Dec. 12 reception in the East Wing of the White House. For three hours, they could roam the halls and rooms of the East Wing, share conversation with other invited guests and catch a glimpse of the president and first lady Michelle Obama, as they descended the staircase and entered the Grand Foyer.
"We dramatically increased voter turnout in Worthington, and it was that work that was being recognized," Hogenson said of her invitation to the White House. "We worked hard at increasing civic involvement with the hope it would lead to Democrat votes."
No reception at the White House would be complete without a feast of foods, and Hogenson said the two buffet lines -- one in the East Room, the other in the State Dining Room -- featured everything from oyster on the half shell and shrimp to lamb, salads and a large spread of dessert options. Champagne, eggnog and wines were also offered.
"He (Bauman) ate the food, I went straight for the desserts," Hogenson said with a laugh.
The assortment included trifles, chocolate truffles and tres leche cake.
"Even the sugar cookies were wonderful," she said.
Hogenson didn't know how many people were in attendance, but there were at least three other guests who hailed from Minnesota. Most notable of the attendees was Donna Brazile, a political analyst and current vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.
"It was like an open house. We wandered," she said.
The East Wing of the White House is traditionally used for social gatherings and public tours. The space consists of the State Dining Room, the Red Room, Blue Room, Green Room, China Room, Library, East Room and the Vermeil Room, which is where the silver collections and portraits of the first ladies are on display.
"You just walk around and all you see is history," Hogenson said.
"It was definitely better than the guided tour you get," Bauman added.
Select individuals were also invited upstairs in the East Wing to have a more private setting with the Obamas.
In addition to admiring the Christmas décor and presidential portraits in the East Wing, Hogenson and Bauman had their pictures taken in the Library, listened to the University of Mississippi Choir sing in the East Room and captured photos of a gingerbread White House -- complete with a Gingerbread Bo. The gingerbread display is an annual tradition.
Hogenson and her husband, who have been to Washington numerous times, had just one day of sightseeing while in the capital city. Visits to the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institute included opportunities to admire beautifully decorated Christmas trees.
"I loved the way D.C. was decorated," Hogenson said. "Every building we were in had a Christmas tree."
While Hogenson had been to the White House as a 4-H leader in the early 1990s, her second experience was definitely one to remember.
"Just to walk around and know you're walking not just in the White House, but where so many important things happened ... my knowledge of history made it even more (special)," she said. "There's something extraordinary about the White House -- its past, present and future."
"It was nice," Bauman added. "We met a lot of interesting people."
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.