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Yorkers dress up Pa. governor's home

Greg Gross

Two York County business owners had a very visual hand livening up the governor's residence in Harrisburg for the holidays.

Judy Brillhart, owner of The Strawberry Shop at Queensgate Towne Center in York Township, was in charge of decorating the Erie Room, the formal living room in the North Front Street mansion, while Michael Hoke, who co-owns Joseph Allan Designs with his partner, Rob Eyster, was tasked with bringing a bit of Christmas to the first lady's office.

"It was quite the experience," Hoke said. "I was honored to be invited to do it."

Decorating the residence is a longtime tradition and is made possible by volunteer decorators from across the state, said Andrea Mead, chief of staff for Frances Wolf, wife of Gov. Tom Wolf.

A touch of home: The Wolfs, who don't live in the mansion full time but instead have opted to continue living in their Mount Wolf home, have a bit of home in the residence. The ornaments on the tree in the State Reception Room were made by students of York Haven Elementary School.

"We very much value the time and resources each of these individuals put into making the residence look amazing during the holidays," Mead said.

In the first lady's office, Hoke returned to nature, using moss and newspaper to create balls that, along with boughs and pinecones, were laid atop cabinets. Greens were also placed in other areas of the room.

This was the first year Joseph Allan Designs, 667 Greenbriar Road in Manchester Township, was tapped to lend a hand, and Hoke said he has already been invited back next year.

Back again: Over the years Brillhart has decorated every room in the mansion, some getting her touch more than once.

This year she and Strawberry Shop employee Kelle Brenneman used pinks, blues and whites to trim the tree with ornaments and ribbons, including a large ornament depicting the Nativity. They also decorated the fireplace mantel and a coffee table, all in about four hours after putting in eight hours of preparation work at the shop.

"It's a great honor to be invited to do it," Brillhart said, adding she includes Christ-themed decorations to spread the true meaning of Christmas.

Brillhart first left her mark on the home in 2000 under former Gov. Tom Ridge's administration. The tradition continued until four years ago, when former Gov. Tom Corbett took office. Under Wolf's watch, Brillhart was invited back.

"People ask me how much I get paid to do that," she said. "Absolutely nothing."

Weekday holiday tour

You can see the handy work of Judy Brillhart, Michael Hoke, York Haven Elementary School students and others firsthand by touring the mansion, located at  2035 N. Front St.

The governor's residence is open to the public from noon to 2 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week. The tours are self-guided, and reservations are not needed. For more information, call  717-772-9130.

If you can't make it to Harrisburg, there are photographs of some of the decorations online

— Reach Greg Gross at