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What would the holidays be without Baby Dog? Tis the season at the Culture Center at the Capitol Complex in Charleston.

There was no snow on the ground at the state Capitol Complex — or anywhere else in Kanawha County, as best I could tell.

The sun was out. Temperatures hovered somewhere in the 50s while state workers in short-sleeve shirts finished lunch and tubby fat squirrels bounded across the dull green lawn.

It didn’t look or feel much like Christmas until I got to the Culture Center and the annual Christmas tree display set up in the lobby.

In years past, while waiting to go inside the theater to watch Mountain Stage or Bob Thompson’s annual “Joy to the World” show, I’d certainly noticed the line of towering, artificial trees, but hadn’t paid much attention to them.

I guess I’d imagined they were just part of the regular holiday décor, and that every year, someone was tasked with dragging out battered boxes from the attic, unpacking the many plastic branches and decorating them with whatever ornaments survived from the previous year.

A government Christmas tree would tend to sound a bit sterile and dull, as if each ornament had to be decided by a select committee, which would meet quarterly to eat, discuss and, if necessary, vote.

But these trees were delightful in their good-natured earnestness and homespun craftiness. They reminded me of the kind of trees I had when I was a kid, which were always a mishmash of images and shapes — and not exactly what you’d think of as museum quality.

I’d expected colorful Blenko glass ornaments or trees devoted to West Virginia University football, but what they had were pieces made by the hands of school children from all over the state.

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The lobby held about a dozen trees. With the exception of the two tallest, which represented the collection of ornaments for 2021, each tree was a snapshot of the Christmas thoughts of West Virginia children.

It was really very sweet.

A front desk worker told me that of the two tallest trees, one tree was decorated with ornaments from children while the other held the work of area artists and community members who’d submitted decorations.

At the end of the season, staff packed up the ornaments. The artisanal stuff went into the Culture Center collection, while the ornaments from school children were stored away to be used next year.

“There’s an ornament collection?” I asked. “Is that on display somewhere?”

He thought about it for a second and said, “There is not.”

“Ah, OK,” I said. “These are still pretty nice.”

Bill Lynch covers entertainment. He can be reached at 304-348-5195 or Follow @lostHwys on Twitter and @billiscap on Instagram.

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