The annual tradition of providing a Christmas tree for the U.S. Capitol got an early start last month at the McCall, Idaho, Winter Carnival. The Payette National Forest is providing the 2016 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, historically and fondly known as “The People’s Tree,” which will adorn the West Lawn of Capitol Hill in December.
It seemed fitting to stage the kick-off event in McCall because the forest surrounds the city. The public event, which swells the town of 3,000 to as many as 60,000 people, has many activities including building larger-than-life snow sculptures. This year employees and friends of the Payette National Forest built an ice sculpture to celebrate their People’s Tree’s eventual arrival in Washington, D.C.
Part of the tradition of giving the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree to the nation is the ornament-making process and with help from Payette Forest employees, local families began making ornaments at the winter carnival. Over the coming months, folks from all over Idaho will contribute to the decorations that will make the People’s Tree a sight to see. Eventually volunteers will make thousands of handmade ornaments to send with the tree, which is themed “An Idaho Mountain Gem.”
“The tree is really a gift from the entire state of Idaho, so it’s not just from the Payette National Forest,” said Keith Lannom, Payette Forest supervisor. “What we try to do is to get the entire state involved. It’s a great opportunity to showcase the State of Idaho to people across the rest of the nation. It’s just a really fun project.”
A major part of the project is to build a state-wide partnership through community participation as Idahoans make the 8,000 ornaments that will decorate the Capitol Tree and the 70 companion trees that are delivered to government offices around Washington D.C. Ornament themes for this year center on the official state symbols for the state of Idaho, such as huckleberries, Monarch butterflies, Cutthroat trout, Mountain Blue birds and Appaloosa horses, to name a few.
The Capitol Christmas Tree is a national tradition that dates back to 1964. In 1970, the Architect of the Capitol asked the U.S. Forest Service to provide a tree. Since then, a different national forest has been chosen to find, harvest and deliver the tree to Washington, D.C.