Subscribe Today! Please read: Readers of local content on the Herald and News website – heraldandnews.com – will require a subscription beginning today. For the first few months, non-subscribers will still be able to view 10 articles for free. If you are not already a subscriber, now is a great time to join for as little as $10/month!
han-20180906-capitol tree 3.jpg

The tradition of the Capitol Christmas Tree, or “The People’s Tree,” began in 1964 when Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John W. McCormack, D-Mass., placed a live Christmas tree on the Capitol Hill lawn.

After the Capitol Christmas Tree is cut down from its forested location on the Willamette National Forest, it will be displayed and celebrated in several Oregon cities before it’s transported more than 3,000 miles to the West Lawn of the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Along the way the 80-foot-tall tree, the first-ever noble fir selected as the annual “People’s Tree,” will be displayed in more than 25 communities. The tree is from the Willamette National Forest’s Sweet Home Ranger District so the first celebration is set in Sweet Home.

The tree will be cut and prepared for its journey Nov. 2. The Sweet Home celebration will begin at noon on Friday, Nov. 9, with a street fair followed by a parade at 6 p.m. and program at 7:30. Celebrations are planned in Albany and Springfield on Nov. 10, McKenzie River Bridge and Oakridge on Nov. 11, Bend and Detroit on Nov. 12, the Oregon State Capitol in Salem and Oregon City on Nov. 13, and The Dalles and Baker City on Nov. 14.

Trail in reverse

Beginning Nov. 15 the tree will make its way east, reversing the path of the Oregon Trail. Willamette spokesmen said the cross-country tour will celebrate two themes, the 175th anniversary of the Oregon Trail and the 50th anniversary of the National Trails Systems Act.

The route will include celebrations in Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio and Maryland, before arriving in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 25, where it will be readied for tree lighting ceremonies in early December. The date for official tree lighting, likely between Dec. 2 and 4, will be determined by Paul Ryan, outgoing Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Joanie Schmidgall and Scott Owen, Willamette public affairs specialists, said each year a different National Forest is selected to provide a tree to appear on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol for the Christmas season. This year marks only the second time the Capitol Tree is from Oregon. Staff from the Willamette National Forest, in partnership with nonprofit agency Choose Outdoors and Travel Oregon, are organizing the tour and other events. Activities in the Oregon communities and along the route, including parades, will be hosted by local communities at museums, main streets, city halls, state capitols, markets, retailers, high schools. People attending the festivities will have the opportunity to sign banners on the sides of the truck to “wish the tree well,” learn about Oregon and the Willamette National Forest, and purchase U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree merchandise.

Volunteers, supporters

Willamette Nation Forest spokesmen said the cross-county trip to Washington, D.C., is being made possible by large and small companies and volunteers in Oregon and across the U.S. who are providing support of time and resources. Sponsors include Pape Kenworth, KGW8, Kenworth Truck Company, Central Oregon Truck Company, SkyBitz, Oregon Forest Resources Institute, Hale Trailer, VanDoIt, Alaska Airlines, Husqvarna, Meritor, Pilot Flying J, Truckload Carriers Association, Willamette Valley Visitors Association, Axis Crane, Eaton, Great West Casualty Company, the National Forest Foundation and the City of Sweet Home.

For tour information, event details, news and updates, and to track the tree on its cross-country journey, visit www.capitolchristmastree.com or www.fs.usda.gov/willamette.