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LINCOLN -- Roxanne Smith would be hard pressed to name just one that's most special.

"I like them all. No, I could not pick a favorite," she says.

"I like the angel. I like the floor grille, the grille from the foyer floor. The pine tree's really nice. And I don't care what anybody says, I like this one," she says, pointing to the 2014 Capitol holiday ornament.

The Nebraska Capitol tourism supervisor laughs. Some people thought it was a sword. She had to tell them,''You've been hanging around fourth-grade boys too much."

But really, who would have guessed it was an elevator floor dial pointer. And where else, but Nebraska, could you get such a uniquely Nebraska decoration? When Smith was coming up with the idea for that ornament, she thought about the renovation work being done the previous year or so on the tower elevators, and the specially recreated bronze dials that accompanied the work.

Smith, known for her exuberance as she scurries around the state's most famous building and for her fun approach to relaying its stories, has chosen most of the ornament designs.

The Capitol Commission has come up with a dozen brass ornaments since 2004, when it began having big bits and small bits of the Capitol made into ornaments for collectors, souvenir hunters and people seeking an ornament for their holiday trees to remember that year when they visited Nebraska, or started working at the Capitol or got married there.

The Capitol has enough detail and design, really, to supply ornaments for years and years to come.

"There are, I believe, over 40 different, distinct representations of corn in our building. For the next 40 years we could do corn ornaments," Smith said.

But it all started with the north facade of the Capitol.

"The broad, flat base of our Capitol, the vast open prairie. The tower, the hopes and dreams of the citizens. Winding up with the sower, soon to grace our license plates," Smith said recently on a Preservation Association of Lincoln tour of the architectural elements in the Capitol that have inspired the design of the Capitol's Christmas ornaments.

In coming up with ideas for the ornaments, Smith has tried to find details of the Capitol that can somehow relate to the holidays. She found one of the eight winged virtues -- Hope -- in the dome of the second-floor Rotunda. The Ponderosa pine art of Hildreth Meiere. Hexagonal designs in archways and carvings that can bring to mind six-sided snowflakes.

The commission has made it a point to represent designs by prominent architects and artists who worked on the building: architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, thematic creator Hartley Burr Alexander, sculptor Lee Lawrie, artist Hildreth Meiere. And all three branches of government -- executive, legislative and judiciary -- show up in those designs.

Some are details of the Capitol people might not notice as they walk through, Smith said.

"It makes people look at the building in a different way," she said. "They see different parts of the building and how ornate and detailed the Capitol is."

She has received suggestions from ornament fans who would like to see various aspects of the building they particularly like hanging from their holiday tree.

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Several years ago, Jo Seiler, the wife of Sen. Les Seiler, suggested the Thunderbird. It became the 2016 Capitol ornament.

They are manufactured by ChemArt in Lincoln, Rhode Island, which also exclusively manufactures the annual White House ornaments.

Each year, the Capitol Commission orders 500. The popular 2004 Rotunda Capitol facade sold out, and then was replicated for another round. The popular Rotunda chandelier sold out, and several other of the first ornaments are getting low in quantity.

Patty Hill, who manages the Landmark Store at the Capitol, said the store sells about 300 of the decorations a year.

"People love the ornaments," Hill said.

This year's Thunderbird ornament will be popular because of its bright blue, green and red colors, she said. It's drawn from the 5-inch thick mahogany east legislative chamber doors which represent Native agricultural heritage. But it is repeated in multiple places both inside and outside the Capitol.

"The Thunderbird I knew would be big," Smith said, "because everybody loves the Thunderbird."

The ornaments are sold in the Landmark stores, at the Capitol and the Nebraska History Museum at 15th and P streets. Prices range from $21.95 to $23.95. The sale of the ornaments supports the Capitol Commission's mission of preservation and education.

Smith wouldn't reveal it yet, but the Nebraska Sesquicentennial ornament for the state's 150th birthday has been designed and ordered, and will be available in January.

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