With a brief countdown and the flick of a switch, the towering U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, on the West Lawn of Capitol Hill, lit up the dark. Visitors from all across America, who stood in near freezing temperatures beneath the majestic pine, cheered as the tree’s thousands of lights glistened the ornaments made especially for it.
Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, handed over the honor of lighting the tree to Brigette Harrington, a fourth grader from Hillsboro, OR, who won an essay contest about Oregon's outdoors sponsored by the USDA Forest Service, and the non-profit organization Choose Outdoors.
Following a tradition of nearly fifty years, set by the Architect of the Capitol, the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree comes from Forest Service managed lands. This year the Willamette National Forest in Oregon had the honors. The massive tree is the first noble fir ever to be displayed on the West lawn of Capitol Hill as a national Christmas Tree. Additionally, tree growers from Northwest Oregon donated 75 smaller companion trees to adorn government office buildings in the Nation’s Capital.
For well over a year, a team from the Willamette Forest planned the 3,000 mile journey from Oregon to Washington, D.C.—an adventured dubbed by much of the national media as the “reverse Oregon Trail.” And the folks on the Willamette Forest are the first to point out that didn’t do it alone.
Thousands of volunteers from the Sweet Home District of the Willamette Forest, where the tree was harvested, plus over 80 sponsors and partnering organization helped in a logistical effort that, no doubt, Santa Clause will present next year to his elves and reindeer as a best practice example of proper gift delivery.
And what a gift.
At 75 feet tall, with over 10,000 handmade ornaments from all over the state of Oregon, few gifts can match the outpouring of love this tree, fondly called “The People's Tree” inspires.
Until New Year’s Eve, anyone visiting Washington, D.C. can come and admire the truly noble Christmas tree.