Local travels to Washington, D.C., for memorable experience | SteamboatToday.com

Local travels to Washington, D.C., for memorable experience

— Steamboat Springs resident Paula Salky went on a trip of a lifetime last weekend in Washington, D.C.

She attended a dinner at Vice President Joe Biden's house, was invited to sit in the front row of the Festival of Lights menorah lighting celebration for Hanukkah, ate lunch at the White House in the West Wing, ate dinner at the White House for the Hanukkah celebration and went on what she called an emotionally powerful tour of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

"I was in awe of the beauty of Washington, D.C.," Salky said. "Everyone there made me feel welcomed. I was humbled and honored to represent our area."

It was her good friend Michele Taylor who enabled Salky to take the trip that she said she will remember for the rest of her life.

In April, Taylor was appointed by President Barack Obama to be a member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. This particular council meets twice each year and consists of 55 members who each are appointed by the president. The council was established by Congress in 1980 to lead the nation in commemorating the Holocaust and to raise private funds for and build the museum.

Since then, Taylor has developed friendships at the White House that allowed her and Salky to have a warm welcome while they visited the vice president and went on various tours.

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In 1979, the Chabad-Lubavitch erected the first National Menorah, according to Salky and pamphlets about the event that also can be seen on the White House website. Since that first year, each president has recognized Hanukkah with a special menorah lighting ceremony and an invitation-only party at the White House.

In its 35th year, the world's largest menorah lighting took place last week on the Ellipse, the President's Park. Vice President Biden was featured in a speech at the event, which also included performances by the United States Army Band, the Three Cantors and British singer-songwriter Alex Clare.

The free invitational event offered hot latkes, spinning dreidels and menorah kits. Each year, it is attended by thousands of people and broadcast worldwide.

With the White House visible through the large menorah and the Washington Monument in front of him, Salky said the vice president referenced the "ongoing miracle of coming together in a nation that respects the freedom to live and worship in peace."

"I think that the festiveness of the holidays truly bring people together," Salky said. Biden’s “speech was so meaningful, and I was captivated by his words because there was something so special about being at that event. I was just so proud and feel even more inspired and grateful."

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email adwyer@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1