The 65-foot white fir from California’s Stanislaus National Forest was harvested and embarked on its journey toward the nation’s capitol on Nov. 5.
While this is the fourth time California will provide the Capitol Christmas Tree, it is the first time that the Forest Service has partnered with a local American Indian tribe to bless the tree. Prior to its harvesting on the Stanislaus, an elder from the Tuolumne Band of Me-wuk Indians blessed the splendid tree and its journey in a private ceremony.
After the blessing, local businesses and arborists teamed up to lift the tree and set it on a double flatbed truck that will eventually deliver it to Washington, D.C. on Nov. 28. But first, the tree started its in-state tour in Sonora, Calif. where it was met with various exhibits, booths and activities. Many attendees signed the tree’s “Christmas card to the nation,” a huge banner that will be hung and displayed on the flatbed truck during the 4,500-mile cross-country road trip.
After visiting communities in California, the tree will head east. During its 20-day trip, it will make a total of 23 stops in nine states, including New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Indiana, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.
“For the next couple of months, this majestic white fir from the Stanislaus National Forest will be one of the most photographed trees in the world,” said Maria Benech, U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree coordinator. The tree will be “an internationally recognized symbol of the holiday season.”
Upon its arrival, the tree will be lowered about five feet into the grounds of the Capitol’s west lawn and the Capitol Grounds crew will spend about one week decorating the tree with thousands of ornaments, which are handmade by residents of the Golden State. In fact, community efforts play a critical role in this annual holiday project.
When Speaker of the House John Boehner lights the tree on Dec. 6, he will be accompanied by Johnny Crawford, a 7-year-old from Sonora, Calif., the lucky child whose name was randomly drawn for the event.
Additionally at the tree lighting ceremony, Californian singers Kate Wallace and Annie J. Dahlgren will perform their original song called “Peace, Peace, Peace,” and Californian Marc Davis’s original photograph titled “Granite Ablaze,” which depicts his interpretation of the Christmas tree, will be added to the permanent display of previous years’ winning artwork at the Washington office of the U.S. Forest Service.