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Winter the dolphin ornament may hang on White House tree

This stained glass ornament created by St. Petersburg artist Lee West has been submitted to the White House for consideration for the 2010 Christmas tree.

LEE WEST | Special to the Times

This stained glass ornament created by St. Petersburg artist Lee West has been submitted to the White House for consideration for the 2010 Christmas tree.

CLEARWATER — First there was the children's book and the video game dedicated to Winter, the dolphin with the artificial tail.

Then Hollywood came calling. In a few weeks, filming will wrap up on the major motion picture, Dolphin Tale, which chronicles the story of Winter's struggle for survival after she lost her tail as a baby.

Now, Winter is going to Washington.

As in, D.C.

A stained glass ornament of Winter, complete with prosthetic tail, may soon adorn a White House Christmas tree, officials with Pinellas County's tourism agency announced this week.

St. Petersburg artist Lee West designed the ornament after she was approached by officials with Visit St. Pete/Clearwater and the Florida Craftsman Gallery. Those organizations wanted to send a symbol of Pinellas County's assets: abundant sunshine, beautiful beaches and the graceful bottlenose dolphins spotted throughout Tampa Bay waters.

The ornament also commemorates the movie, which stars Harry Connick Jr., Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd. It has been filming at locations throughout the county, including Winter's home at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

West, who makes sun catchers with sea life themes, said she was asked to make something a bit larger than her normal pieces.

Her Winter ornament measures 11 inches across.

"That's because the trees at the White House are so large they thought if I did one of my normal sun catcher sizes, it would be too small for the tree," said West, 71.

A call to first lady Michelle Obama's press office Wednesday was not returned.

But Visit St. Pete/Clearwater officials said they expect the ornament to be displayed on "the official White House Holiday Tree," a Douglas fir from Lehighton, Pa., that will be presented in the Blue Room.

After creating the first piece, made of blue refracting glass, West decided to create 19 more pieces as part of a limited first edition series. The handcrafted pieces are on sale for $60 at the Florida Craftsman Gallery at 501 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg. Each is signed and numbered.

West said she's considering creating a second edition that would vary from the original design once the movie is released.

"We've all been reading about (the movie)," she said. "We're all excited about it."

Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4157.

Winter the dolphin ornament may hang on White House tree 11/25/10 [Last modified: Friday, November 26, 2010 5:46pm]
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