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A Present to the Nation

The 2009 Capitol Christmas Tree was an 85-foot blue spruce from the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. This year’s tree is being harvested from the White River National Forest in northwest Colorado.

The 2009 Capitol Christmas Tree was an 85-foot blue spruce from the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. This year’s tree is being harvested from the White River National Forest in northwest Colorado.

Five years ago, the White River National Forest in northwest Colorado was selected as the site from which the 2012 Capitol Christmas Tree would be harvested. Since 1970, national forests have taken turns providing what’s also known as the “people’s tree.” The last time the tree - which travels to the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol for public display during the holiday season -hailed from our Centennial State was more than a decade ago, in 2000.

This Years Theme: Celebrating The Great Outdoors

This year’s theme of celebrating the great outdoors and emphasizing healthy forests is fitting given Colorado’s tragic summer fires, including our own Waldo Canyon Fire, which ended up being the state’s most destructive in terms of structures burned.

“It’s a great way to tell the story that Colorado is recognized as one of the healthiest states in the country because of our love of the outdoors, and what’s happened with the mountain pine beetle, drought and fires signifies the importance of maintaining healthy forests,” says Bruce Ward, founder of Choose Outdoors. The conservation coalition has national offices in Pine, Colo., and Washington, D.C., and is an organizer of the tree program.

Ward said one of the great aspects of what’s become a beloved annual tradition is that amidst such divisiveness as politics and religion, the Capitol Christmas Tree is a unifying undertaking.
“It’s interesting to see how many people want to help, from the guy who wants to be Santa at every event to the trucking company,” he says. “It’s almost like we’re sending a message back to Washington that we’re working together.”

Choosing The 2012 Capitol Christmas Tree

U.S. Forest Service officials identified eight to 10 trees based on their shape, fullness, color and condition, and, in August, the superintendent of the Capitol grounds selected this year’s winner. Several smaller trees taken from the same area will be placed indoors, in congressional and senate offices, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court.

But the project is more than just finding the perfectly shaped and sized tree for the government hub and hauling it back East. Juried art, songwriting, essay and ornament design contests, and some 6,000 tree ornaments handmade by children across Colorado have been happening behind the scenes.

Capitol Tree Festivities In Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs is one of about 30 cities where the chosen tree will stop on its 3,000-mile trek to Washington, D.C. Former U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, now a legal consultant in Pueblo, again will drive the tree across country in a Mack Pinnacle truck.

The tree is being cut Nov. 2, and the kickoff celebration for the long journey will be Nov. 3 in Meeker, the town closest to its forest home. The 60-to-90-foot-high tree will be wrapped in preparation for its ride.

It will arrive in Colorado Springs the evening of Nov. 10, stay overnight and depart at 11 a.m. on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. Well-wishers will be able to take part in a variety of festivities.
“Everyone should come see the tree, perhaps hear a singing group, have something to eat and be in the group photo,” says Amy Long, vice president of marketing and membership for the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is helping with the local celebration.

The tree will wind through numerous states and reach the Capitol on the Monday after Thanksgiving. After a lighting ceremony – some 10,000 low-energy LED lights will decorate the Christmas tree – it will be illuminated nightly form dusk until 11 p.m.

For more information, go to www.VisitCOS.com/ColoradoChristmasTree or www.CapitolChristmasTree2012.com.