The Capitol Christmas Tree, also called “The People’s Tree,” made a stop in Fargo on Nov. 13 on its trip to the front yard of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.
The Capitol Christmas Tree has been a tradition since 1964 when then Speaker of the House John W. McCormack requested a tree to celebrate the Christmas holiday season. The first tree was a 24-foot Douglas fir selected from a nearby nursery in Pennsylvania, and it was reused until 1967. In 1968 and 1969, trees were cut down in Maryland, but since 1970, the U.S. Forest Service has provided the tree by selecting it from a different National Forest each year.
This year’s Sub Alpine Fir was selected from the Bitterroot National Forest in Montana.
The state is excited about this opportunity to “showcase all that is special about Montana: the beauty of her natural resources, the products & services of her businesses, the richness of her cultures, and the talents and generosity of her people,” the Capitol Christmas Tree 2008 Web site said.
This year’s tree is also 100 years old and a whopping 75 feet tall, putting it in a tie with the 1996 tree for the tallest tree to grace the front lawn of the Capitol.
Sophomore Whitney Derks, a communication and political science double major, is a Montana native and thinks it is neat for the Capitol Christmas Tree to be from Montana. Hearing that the tree came from Bitterroot was not at all a shock to Derks.
“That particular mountain range in…the western part of our state possesses breathtaking, picturesque beauty,” Derks said.
Besides providing the Capitol Christmas Tree, the Bitterroot National Forest and the state of Montana are also providing over 70 smaller trees and 5,000 ornaments, largely homemade by Montana residents, for congressional offices and agency headquarters throughout the Capitol.
The tree was cut on Nov. 1 in Hamilton, Mont., and since then has made stops with its caravan across the United States in several locations. It has been seen in Montana, North Dakota, Bronson and St. Loius, M.O., Broadview, Ill. and Wheeling, W. Va., until it reaches its final resting place on the Capitol Mall on Nov. 24.
On Nov. 13, the tree made appearances in Dickinson and Bismarck, N.D. before it arrived at the West Acres Mall in Fargo at 6:30 p.m.
The SkyBitz company has also installed a mobile tracking unit on the 90 foot trailer that the tree travels on, so the public can view the tree’s location at any time at www.trackthetree.com.
“We’re honored to provide the tracking for this priceless shipment,” said Homaira Akbari, President and CEO of SkyBitz. “We think the American public as well as global Internet users will enjoy going online to track where the tree is every day during its cross-country journey.”
Unfortunately, the tree cannot be erected until it reaches the Capitol Mall, and spectators at West Acres had to settle for peeking through a window in the side of the extended trailer in which it travels. Forest rangers from Bitterroot along with Smokey the Bear were also in attendance to answer questions and take pictures with attendees. The tree spent the night in Fargo and then continued on its journey to Kansas City, M.O.
The tree will be lit by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on Dec. 2 at 6 p.m.
Marisa Paulson is a senior and the news & features editor of The Concordian, although she still writes when she can. She plans to attend the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in fall 2011.