Despite the rain and freezing temperatures, there was warmth and good cheer in the hearts of everyone who came out to catch a glimpse of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree and help transform Milwaukee’s Cathedral Square Park into Community Spirit Park on Veteran’s Day.
The fanfare also helped to honor past and present members of the Armed Forces, some of who were on hand to see a holiday bedecked park with a 50-lighted tree, Milwaukee’s Color Guard waving American flags and a larger than life 90-foot tractor trailer parked nearby.
Almost hidden from view on the trailer is the 88-foot white spruce destined as this year’s U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, which is on its way to Washington, D.C., where it will be lit on Dec. 2.
A clear plastic window give sightseers a glimpse of the towering tree recently harvested from the Chippewa National Forest in Minnesota. The tree will remain cocooned with the branches gingerly pressed as close to the trunk as possible until its final stop. A very large tree bladder wrapped around the freshly cut base of the tree keeps the spruce properly hydrated.
Adding to the festive spirit of the Milwaukee arrival were more than 600 students from 17 metro area schools who helped to transform the park into “Community Spirit Park” by decorating the small evergreen trees with ornaments they made. Each participating school presented an ornament, along with Milwaukee Downtown’s signature ornaments, to tour representatives.
In on the fun were Forest Service employees decorating a “connecting kids to nature” tree with sustainable ornaments. In between decorating, attendees took a selfie with Smokey Bear and/or put their stamp on the “People’s Tree” by signing the 65-foot-wide U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree banner that will be displayed in D.C.
Attendees joined members of the Fernwood Montessori choir in joyful singing of “Happy Birthday” to Smokey Bear, who is celebrating his 70th this year. A local market provided a birthday cake.
Beautiful vocals filled downtown with holiday spirit through Christmas classics “Let There Be Peace on Earth” and “Oh, Christmas Tree.”
A beautiful rendition of God Bless America by University of Milwaukee student Michaela Gones was the perfect send off as the tree head out to the next stop in Wilmington, Illinois. You can Track the Tree online as it continues to cross the Midwest. Late Wednesday, the tree has passed Chicago.
The Chippewa National Forest follows in the tradition begun in 1970 when the U.S. Speaker of the House asked the U.S. Forest Service to provide a Christmas tree. Since then, a different national forest has been chosen each year to provide “The People’s Tree,” so named because it comes from public land and the tree’s annual trip is supported by many local communities along the way.
The cost of moving the Tree, providing ornaments and hosting various events is covered by a nonprofit organization dedicated to the event. Forest Service employees provide support as part of their duties. This year, the Forest Service partnered with the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and Choose Outdoors to make this hugely coordinated effort a success.
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I am not sure if I will get a reply, but my 4-year old daughter is completely obsessed with Smokey. She watches all the you tube videos she can about him and she wants to meet him so bad some day. She even tried to organize a birthday party for him at her school...all on her own. I only found out because the principal said she actually came to talk to her about planning a big event with orange, yellow, and black balloons and a special cake for Smokey and songs, etc. Is there a way to get a letter or card from Smokey or a way to find out where we can go to see him in person? I know this is silly, but she can recite all the fire rules and she says she wants to grow up and be a forest ranger to help Smokey. You can email me. Thank you, Michael Ann
Any child may write directly to Smokey Bear. Just use this address: Smokey Bear Headquarters, Washington, D.C. 20252. Smokey Bear is so nice that he shares his mailbox with Woodsy Owl, too! Read this blog about Smokey’s ZIP code: http://blogs.usda.gov/2014/07/01/letters-to-smokey-bear-reveal-promise-…