In 2013, an 88-foot Engelmann spruce from the Colville National Forest in Northeast Washington served as the national Christmas tree, tying for the tallest Capitol tree ever. Last year, the national tree was from Alaska but still had a Washington connection, as the tree arrived in the continental U.S. by ship at Tacoma.
This year the Capitol Christmas Tree is an 80-foot Engelmann spruce from the Payette National Forest in Idaho. After being cut down Nov. 2, the tree toured the country before arriving in D.C. in early December.
At a news conference last week, Stephen Ayers, the architect of the Capitol, said the Idaho tree had a good overall shape and color, along with solid branches. They’re needed for all of the LED lights and the 6,000 ornaments made by hand by Idaho children.
“What a pilgrimage it’s been on – more than 2,500 miles on a remarkable journey,” Ayers said.
…The tree drank 20 gallons of water each day during the cross-country trip. And its branches, which were 26 feet wide, had to be trimmed down and bent to fit on the truck. The tree was accompanied by two law enforcement vehicles and one forest service vehicle.
Gary Amoth, a truck driver from Twin Falls, Idaho, who hauled the tree, said thousands of spectators met the tree on its stops across the country.
“The people were fantastic – it renewed my hope in America,” Amoth said.
Jade Sumsion, a law enforcement officer with the Forest Service, called the trip “a once-in-a-career event for us.” He said his favorite stop was in Weiser, Idaho, where the motorcade was met with a local firetruck with its ladder extended and a huge flag hanging over the top of a tree.
To decorate the Capitol Christmas Tree and the smaller companion trees sent to government offices, the people of Idaho made 18,000 unique ornaments by hand. The ornaments are Idaho state symbols, which include the mountain bluebird, appaloosa horse, cutthroat trout and Idaho’s famous potatoes. There are also Native American ornaments, snowmen, owls and parachutes.
…If you make a trip to see the Capitol Christmas Tree, take the time to walk around the tree to check out the ornaments. Try to imagine the time, attention and detail that went into creating enough handmade ornaments to cover a Christmas tree that is 80 feet tall! It’s very impressive and beautiful.