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National Capitol Christmas Tree tour coming to Utah

Published November 12, 2013 9:36 am

The giant Englemann spruce will travel a 4,000-mile route from Washington state to Washington, D.C.
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There's nothing like an 88-foot Englemann spruce to get people in the Christmas spirit.

Utahns will get a chance to see the Capitol Christmas Tree on its route from Washington state to deliver holiday cheer to Washington, D.C.

The Capitol Christmas Tree National Tour travels through Utah with stops in Ogden (Monday), Spanish Fork (Tuesday) and St. George (Wednesday) before continuing to the U.S. Capitol, where it will be erected on the west lawn.

The spruce, selected as the 2013 Capitol Christmas Tree from a short list of candidates in the summer of 2012, will not be stood up from its supported position on a truck trailer, and only a portion of the tree can be viewed through Plexiglass windows.

Most of the tree is covered with tarps to help keep it cool during its 4,000-mile ride.

A water bladder capable of holding 30 gallons is secured around the base of the tree and refilled as needed during the trip.

The Washington state tree was selected by Ted Bechtol, superintendent of the Capitol Grounds, after a screening process by staffers of the Colville National Forest in northeastern Washington state.

Jen Knutson, Capitol Christmas Tree coordinator, said the selection process was not unlike what families go through while picking their own tree with the exception that they were looking for a tree between 60 and 85 feet tall.

"We at the Forest Service have our own family, and it was like we went out to cut a family Christmas tree," said Knutson, who works in the Colville National Forest. "Every­body was looking, and we narrowed it down a bit."

The Englemann spruce was not felled but secured vertically with a crane so it wouldn't fall to the ground and damage any branches. It was then gently placed on supports on the trailer.

Eighty "companion" trees ranging from 6 to 20 feet are also being sent to Washington, D.C., to be used in Capitol buildings during the holiday season.

The goal to provide 9,000 ornaments for all of the trees fell a little short, due primarily to issues related with the federal government shutdown, but Knutson said there are still more than 6,000 to be delivered.

Tree skirts, crafted by Washington state and Idaho students and Girl Scouts, are also being sent to the Capitol.

This is the second time the Capitol Christmas Tree has come from Washington. The 2006 tree came from the Olympic National Forest in western Washington.

"Communities are so thankful to be able to see it and be a part of its trip to the Capitol," Knutson said. "They love being able to sign the banner around the tree."

Utah provided the Capitol tree, also an Englemann spruce, from the Manti-La Sal National Forest in 1996.

Knutson said no decision has been made on where the 2014 Capitol Christmas Tree will be cut.

The 2013 tree will make 24 stops along its trip from Washington state to Washington, D.C., where a hole 5 feet deep and 10,000 lights await its arrival. The Forest Service is providing some funding for the Capitol Christmas Tree Tour, but the majority of the costs are covered by donations.

"Gas, hotel rooms, food and the truck trailers are all paid by donations," she said.

The lighting of the Capitol Christmas Tree will be done by Speaker of the House John Boehner at a yet-to-be-decided date. He will be joined in the lighting ceremony by first-grade student Giovanni Gaynor from Hofsteeter School in Colville.


Twitter: @BrettPrettyman —

National Christmas Tree stops in Utah

Monday, Ogden • Business members, veterans and schoolchildren will be a part of a ceremony to honor "The People's Tree." Attendees will be invited to sign holiday greeting cards for Utah-based military units in other countries. (334 23rd St., 4-6 p.m.)

Tuesday, Spanish Fork • A ceremony with the mayor, City Council, U.S. Forest Service representatives and state representatives will take place at 7 p.m. (49. S. Main St., 6-8 p.m.)

Wednesday, St. George • Flying J, 2841 S. 60 East, Noon to 2 p.m. —

Cut your own Christmas tree

Permits to cut Christmas trees in Utah are, or will be, available on U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands.

• Bureau of Land Management: BLM Utah will sell non-commercial permits to cut pinyon pine and juniper Christmas trees beginning in early November. Dates:  Nov. 4 to Dec. 24. Cost:  $10 each with a limit of two per household.

In Salt Lake City, permits will be available at the Field Office at 2370 South 2300 West. Find a list of other BLM locations here. For more information call:  (801)977-4300.

• U.S. Forest Service: Permits are available around the state; see a list of locations and rules here. Tree permits are for personal use only, and only cash and checks are accepted.






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