Holiday season kicks off with songs, story and First Dog Henry

By Eddie Drews

INDIANAPOLIS—The south atrium of the Statehouse echoed with holiday cheer Thursday as children from Western Wayne Elementary School, Central Christian Academy and James Whitcomb Riley School 43 helped kick off the holiday season.

Students from the three schools joined Gov. Eric Holcomb, First Lady Janet Holcomb and First Dog Henry as they gathered around three brightly decorated trees and listened to the first lady read from a modern classic, Jingle Bells by Iza Trapani.

First Dog Henry and Gov. Eric Holcomb listen intently as Lady Janet Holcomb reads a Christmas story to children at the Statehouse Thursday. Photo by Eddie Drews,

The story took the children on a journey around the world as they heard about the holiday traditions of nations as different as Mexico and the Philippines. The story was reflected in the flags of various nationalities that decorate the trees in the atrium.

As part of the program, which has been a tradition at the Statehouse, the children hung ornaments on the three trees and listened to songs sung by The International School of Indiana choir.

This year marked the 55th year that the Indiana Christmas Tree Growers Association has donated evergreens to the Statehouse for the event. The association also participates in an event called Trees for Troops, which ships Christmas trees to military bases in Afghanistan and Guam.

Rafael Sanchez, president of private banking at Old National Bank and the master of ceremony at the event, joined in the revelry and had the children shout out “Ho! Ho! Ho!” every time he said something that reminded them of Christmas. He was joined on stage by Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Afterward, the children had a chance to meet and have their pictures taken with the real star of the program, First Dog Henry.

Eddie Drews is a reporter for, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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