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story.lead_photo.caption Gov. Mike Parson holds Clara Hahn, 3, as they gaze Thursday at the Christmas tree in front of the governor's office in the state Capitol. Parson circled the tree with Clara, pointing out the various decorations and asking her questions about what she liked about the holiday season. Photo by Liv Paggiarino / News Tribune.

Gov. Mike Parson, first lady Teresa Parson and other state officials on Thursday declared December to be "Christmas Tree Month," as a group of local preschoolers helped celebrate the festive evergreens on display at Parson's office in the Capitol.

Outside Parson's office is a Christmas tree donated by Vern and Bethine Spaunhorst, owners of Heritage Valley Tree Farm in Washington.

A group of preschoolers from Brittney Massman's class at St. Peter Interparish School in Jefferson City helped decorate that tree Thursday with pine cone ornaments, after singing "Away in a Manger" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."

A wreath displayed outside the office — a wreath from Steve and Teresa Meier, of Meier Horseshoe Pines, in Jackson — won this year's Missouri Christmas Tree Association's wreath contest.

Steve Meier showed Parson that it's custom-decorated to reflect Parson's service as a sheriff and his cattle ranch, and there's a handmade Santa Claus ornament carved by artist Glen Kinder.

Branch Ranch owners Butch and Darlene Auspurg, of Philadelphia, Missouri, won the Christmas tree association's tree contest this year.

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State Department of Agriculture Director Chris Chinn briefly highlighted the Christmas tree industry during its harvest season: "The work (farmers) put into these beautiful trees and wreaths is something that takes all year long to do. They put a lot of love and care into making sure that they raise the perfect Christmas tree for every family, no matter where they're at."

The Parsons reflected on the nature of Christmas for the occasion.

"We must not ever forget the blessings that each and everyone has," the first lady said.

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