Tomblin moves holiday parties to Culture Center

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and first lady Joanne Jaeger Tomblin are moving their annual holiday parties to the Culture Center because the Governor’s Mansion is not large enough for the events.

The invitation-only, black-tie-optional parties attract about 2,000 people each year. The guest list includes elected officials, constituents and journalists.

Holding the parties at the Culture Center will eliminate the need to install a party tent at the mansion, which will save money and preserve a portion of the grass at the mansion, Tomblin spokeswoman Amy Shuler-Goodwin told the Charleston Daily Mail.

“With the amount of people, we’d always have to have a tent in there, and that was extremely costly,” she said.

Shuler-Goodwin said that installing a party tent ruined turf in the mansion courtyard.

“You have to put down flooring and you have to put down a tent,” Goodwin said.

The move to the larger venue also will reduce the number of parties. In 2012, the Tomblins hosted five parties at the mansion between Nov. 30 and Dec. 15. This year, two parties are scheduled, one on Dec. 6 for southern West Virginians and another on Dec. 7 for northern West Virginians.

Guests also will be able to visit the state museum and view art exhibits on display at the Culture Center.

Shuler-Goodwin said the Governor’s Mansion will be open for an hour before the parties begin to allow guests to view the holiday decorations and take pictures.

“A lot of people like to come. It’s beautifully decorated. We have the artisan tree there, where artisans from all over the state have their work displayed,” she said.

In 2011, Tomblin removed a 4,000-square-foot plastic structure that former Gov. Joe Manchin installed onto the mansion’s west side in 2007 for the holiday parties and other large gatherings. Tomblin rented a 2,000-square-foot tent for the past two years at a cost of $24,500.