Holiday Road-Trip: U.S. Capitol Tree Rolls Through Montrose
by William Woody
Nov 15, 2012 | 1679 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HOLIDAY STOP - 11-year-old Erik Aufderheide of Montrose pens his name to the cover of a large 73-foot Engelmann spruce on its way to Washington D.C. to be fitted as the 2012 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree along Cascade Avenue Thursday Nov. 8, 2012. Only the tree's crown was visible for public viewing, however, residents could sign the tree's cover. The tree will arrive in Washington D.C. shortly after Thanksgiving. For more info and news visits: www.capitolchristmastree2012.org (Photo by William Woody)
HOLIDAY STOP - 11-year-old Erik Aufderheide of Montrose pens his name to the cover of a large 73-foot Engelmann spruce on its way to Washington D.C. to be fitted as the 2012 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree along Cascade Avenue Thursday Nov. 8, 2012. Only the tree's crown was visible for public viewing, however, residents could sign the tree's cover. The tree will arrive in Washington D.C. shortly after Thanksgiving. For more info and news visits: www.capitolchristmastree2012.org (Photo by William Woody)
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MONTROSE – Within a month, thousands of evergreen trees will be cut and ferried to living rooms across America in celebration of Christmas. One Colorado tree, a 73-foot tall Engelmann spruce, will stand tall on the National Mall – not only a seasonal icon, but proud contribution of the Centennial State for a nation to cherish.

Last Thursday, hundreds of local residents packed North Cascade Avenue in downtown Montrose to catch a glimpse of the 2012 U.S. Capitol Christmas tree as it makes its three-week, 3,300-mile road trip from the White River National Forest, 40 miles east of Meeker, to the west lawn of the United States Capitol.

The large spruce, estimated at 74 years old and 28 inches in diameter, was felled earlier this month and will arrive in Washington D.C. just after Thanksgiving along with nearly 3,000 ornaments crafted by Colorado school children.

The tree rolled into Montrose nearly completely covered, aboard a modified flat-bed trailer, before dozens of onlookers armed with cameras and curiosity.

Only the crown of the tree was visible. A grey plastic cover printed with various logos was created to protect the tree on its 27-city, cross-country journey.

During its stop in Montrose Thursday afternoon, excitement drew hundreds including children who wasted no time snatching Sharpie pens from U.S. Forest Service rangers to write their names and spirited messages to the plastic cover.

"It makes me so proud that Colorado is doing it," said Tommie Howerton of Montrose.

The Forest Service had several tables where kids could get cookies and paint wooden ornaments. Other downtown businesses had tables set up displaying Christmas gifts and handmade crafts.

Although getting a picture of the tree was frustrating, its presence in town enhanced community spirit in the final six weeks before Christmas.

Unlike the much older tradition of a White House Christmas Tree, the Capitol Tree tradition dates just from 1963. The Meeker tree is the third Capitol tree to be harvested from Colorado, the last was shipped from the San Isabel National Forest near Pikes Peak in 2000.

Montrose Mayor Thomas Smits addressed the crowd, saying the tree was a symbol of democracy for those across the country. "I hope once it reaches Washington, I hope and pray, that Washington, our politicians, our elected officials, our senators and representatives, will come together around the tree and work together in a bipartisan way … and work in the best interests of the country, just like we do here in Montrose," Smits said.

Smits also reminded people visiting the tree to shop locally this holiday season.

The logistics of harvesting the Capitol tree can be daunting, according to Ken Coffin, the trip coordinator from U.S. Forest Service office in Meeker.

The tree cannot be allowed to fall once its cut. It is hoisted by crane to a waiting flat-bed where it is then sprayed with a solution to retain moisture and fitted with a 50-gallon bladder to keep it fresh. Coffin said the tree will consume 30-40 gallons of water each day.

"This is quite a turnout, and we've had just a great reception so far," Coffin told the crowd.

The tree's shipment is paid for by sponsors and not taxpayer dollars, according to Coffin, who said the cost of cutting and shipping the tree runs around $250,000.

The tree's journey is also a fundraiser, with proceeds underwriting recovery efforts in areas devastated by this past summer's wildfires.

Along with the Capitol Tree, about 9,000 smaller trees were packed in two other trailers. Those trees will be distributed to various government offices across Washington D.C.

"It's really neat to see the enthusiasm and excitement that everybody has shown with this gift from Colorado to the people of the nation. This is a great way to send it off," Coffin said.

For those interested in tracking the tree visit: www.capitolchristmastree2012.org.

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