2016 Capitol ornament branches out

The designers of this year’s Capitol Christmas ornament decided it was time to branch out a bit.

Instead of showcasing, as in years past, an architectural feature of the pink-domed downtown centerpiece, the 2016 commemorative ornament celebrates the custom of sprucing the place up with decorated trees — a Christmas tradition that began in 1914 when “the mightiest cedar in Travis County” was placed at the building’s entrance, according to the State Preservation Board.

The 21st annual holiday trinket features a tree festooned with previous years’ Capitol ornaments, looming over wrapped gifts and a depiction of the pink granite building itself.

“We thought it would be kind of a fun direction to take to focus not just on the history of the building but on its traditions,” said Erin Christensen, director of retail for the board.

Since the 2016 version went on sale in August, more than 28,000 ornaments have been sold online and at gift shops in the Capitol, the Capitol visitors center and the Bullock Texas State History Museum.

The goal, Christensen said, is to sell about 60,000 of them.

Profits from sales of the $20 ornament go into a fund for Capitol preservation projects and education programs at the Capitol, Governor’s Mansion and Bullock museum.

With about 1.1 million sold in the past 21 years, the ornaments have pumped more than $8 million into the fund, Christensen said.

The State Preservation Board also is offering three other ornaments for sale this year — a Capitol dome and a star, both with a battery-powered light, and a wildflower bouquet.

In the meantime, work has already begun on next year’s commemorative ornament.

“We’re going through some designs now,” Christensen said.

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