Obama Homes for the Holidays

Building models of the Obama homes is harder than crashing a White House party. But the Chicago Botanic Garden (CBG) believes it's all worth it.

Harriet Resnick, vice president of visitor experience and business development at the CBG, says it took approximately three months to get clearance from the Secret Service to build a model of the First Family's residence in Hyde Park and Michelle Obama's childhood home, and another five to six weeks to construct. The two homes--along with the Union Stockyards' Old Stone Gate--are new additions to the CBG's 10,000-square-foot holiday train exhibition, which features more than 85 miniature building structures made from all natural plant materials.

The Wonderland Express exhibition opens tomorrow, and Resnick believes the Obama homes will draw bigger crowds to the train show. "Everyone in Chicago has a connection to the President. Having his home in the exhibition will definitely draw people's attention and make people smile and be proud to be Chicagoans," Resnick says.

The present state of the economy has aided in the 21-percent visitor boom to the CBG compared to last year, as many families are staying closer to home and thus, taking staycations. If attendance continues at this rate, Resnick estimates that more than 50,000 people will come to the exhibition this year, which runs through Jan. 3, 2010.

The CBG staff hopes the First Family responds to the mailed invitation to attend the Wonderland Express exhibition and Resnick says she'd even arrange for a special discount.

Those unable to attend the exhibition can get a sneak peak of the Obama homes below.

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