US Capitol Christmas Tree

Tester Teams up with Bozeman Sixth Grader to Light the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

 

Published by Senator Jon Tester, December 6, 2017

(West Lawn, U.S. Capitol) - U.S. Senator Jon Tester kicked off the holiday season tonight alongside Bozeman sixth-grader Ridley Brandmayr as they lit the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree.

"When Senator Tester called my dad and told me, it didn't feel real. It took about five minutes for it to sink in," Brandmayr said. "But it definitely became real tonight and it was an experience I will never forget."

The 79-foot Engelmann Spruce traveled nearly 3,500 miles from Montana's Kootenai National Forest to grace the lawn of the U.S. Capitol building-making stops in 13 Montana cities along the way. As the senior Senator from the tree's home state, Tester was tasked with selecting the tree lighter and helping organize this year's celebration. He asked Ridley after the Bozeman sixth grader lost his right hand in a tragic accident earlier this year. Tester lost three fingers on his left hand in a similar accident when he was a kid.

"This tree has been growing in Montana for decades - enduring brutal fire seasons, and braving harsh winters. It's reached almost 80 feet tall, nourished by Montana's rich soil and sustained by clean mountain water." Tester said. "This tree is more than a symbol of the natural resources the Treasure State has to offer - it represents our shared history, intertwined with our outdoor heritage and our Montana values."

The event was co-hosted by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and also featured the other two members of Montana's Congressional delegation. On hand were dozens of folks who helped shepherd the tree from Montana to D.C.

"The selection and delivery of the Capitol Christmas tree from the Kootenai National Forest has been an extreme honor for the Forest Service and State of Montana," said Sandi Mason, the Kootenai Forest's Capitol Christmas Tree project leader. "We have met a ton of fantastic people across this great country of ours and this will be a journey that we will never forget. We are proud to display the tree, along with all of the ornaments and tree skirts that were handmade by people from all over the State."

Others in attendance included Larry Spiekermeier of Whitewood Transportation, the man who drove the tree across nearly a dozen state over the course of a two-week journey. Spiekermeier is a two-time Montana Motor Carriers "driver of the year" who hails from Plains, Montana. He will celebrate a half century on the road next year.

The tree was decorated with nearly 3,000 handmade ornaments from folks across Big Sky country. It was flanked by a custom tree skirt quilted by Shawna Crawford of Lewistown and topped by a five-foot tall copper star commissioned by the Washington Companies of Missoula, fabricated by Split Mountain Metal of Belgrade, and lit by Western Montana Lighting of Missoula.

Since 1970, a different national forest has been chosen each year to provide the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. The last tree to hail from Montana was a Subalpine Fir from the Bitterroot National Forest in 2008. The Kootenai National Forest also provided "The People's Tree" in 1989.

Watch a livestream of the event HERE.


 

Tale of a Tree and a Star

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Posted by Robert Hudson Westover, U.S. Forest Service, Washington D.C. in ForestryNov 29, 2017

For many in the D.C. area, the arrival of the towering Capitol Christmas Tree means the holiday season has begun. Every year local residents and tourists from all over the country, as well as delegations from the state that provides the tree, come to view the official lighting of what is fondly referred to as “the people’s tree” on the West Lawn of Capitol Hill.

Since 1970 the U.S. Forest Service has provided the national Capitol Christmas Tree, and every year it’s different and exciting in literally thousands of ways. This year’s tree, a 79-foot Engelmann spruce cut from the Kootenai National Forest in Montana, will be adorned with thousands of ornaments handmade by the children on Montana.

The tree called Beauty of the Big Sky began its cross country sojourn in early November and has made 21 stops at towns and cities along the way including the states of North Dakota, Minnesota, and Kentucky.

And in a first, the tree will have a star built in the same state. In August, organizers reached out to The Washington Companies, a Missoula-based conglomerate that includes Montana Rail Link, mining company Montana Resources, and environmental remediation business Envirocon.

Architect of the Capitol with members of the Montana Congressional Delegation speaking as well as USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan presides over the ceremony, which will begin at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 6th on the West Lawn of the Capitol.

As is the tradition, a child from the home state will flip the switch to illuminate the tree. Ridley Brandmayr, an 11-year-old Bozeman boy who lost the fingers of his right hand in an accident this summer, has been chosen by Montana Sen. Jon Tester to light the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree at the outdoor ceremony.

The tradition of a U.S. Capitol Christmas tree dates to the 1960s. In 1964, a 24-foot Douglas fir was bought for $700 from a nursery in Birdsboro, Pennsylvania, and placed on the West Front lawn. That tree died after a severe storm and root damage, but the tradition of a tree on the Capitol grounds continued with the USDA Forest Service providing a tree from one of its forests.

A tree in the air
A great deal of expertise is required to safely position the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree in place. The next stop for the dangling colossus will be the West Lawn. (Photo credit: Robert Westover, U.S. Forest Service)

US Capitol Christmas Tree Seven Lincoln County Students to See Lighting of Tree, Meet with Officials

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

 

From The Western News, November 28, 2017

As the the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree on Monday ended its journey from the Kootenai National Forest to Washington, D.C., seven juniors and seniors from Lincoln County’s three high schools were eagerly anticipating their upcoming trip to see it being lit.

The students — Hunter Leighty, Allie Coldwell and Katelyn Downey of Troy High School; Sidney Stevenson and Will O’Connell of Libby High School; and Ashlyn Carvey and Mason Davis of Lincoln County High School in Eureka — won the honor of witnessing holiday history by winning the Kootenai National Forest Capitol Christmas Tree photo contest.

In addition to watching the tree lighting 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6, the students will attend a reception hosted by Sen. Jon Tester at the United States Botanic Garden and a reception hosted by U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, among other items.

For Leighty, the trip will be the second time he’s traveled outside of Montana and his first visit to the nation’s capitol.

“All of this is pretty cool and a little nerve racking,” he wrote via Facebook message. “I can’t wait.”

Carvey learned about the contest online while working for a Youth Conservation Crew over the summer, which expanded her knowledge of the Kootenai National Forest. She said she “thought it would be cool to win a trip to (Washington), D.C.,” a city she, too, has never before visited.

“I’m very excited to see a big city coming from a small town and hope to see more of the city and maybe go to the mall,” she wrote.

When Downey learned about the contest last spring, she said she “immediately knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.”

“Going to the Capitol Christmas Tree lighting is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I figured that our area is so beautiful that anyone could have a shot at winning the photo contest,” she wrote. “If all I had to do was get out, enjoy what the Kootenai National Forest has to offer, and take some pictures, I thought, ‘Why not?’”

Another first-time visitor to Washington, D.C., Downey wrote she is “super excited and grateful for the opportunity” and “would love to get out and see a little bit of the history that D.C. has to offer” if they have time outside of what’s already planned.

Stevenson was encouraged to enter the contest by her mother, Troy District Forest Ranger Kirsten Kaiser, who accompanied the trip for part of its journey east.

“It is such a great opportunity, so I couldn’t pass it up,” she wrote. “And I have never been to (Washington), D.C.”

Davis, who worked alongside his classmate Carvey in the Youth Conservation Crew, “was motivated to enter the contest because I just started getting into photography, and this seemed like a good place to start displaying my photos. (And) I’ve never actually been to the East Coast in general, so going right to Washington will be a really cool experience.”

Coldwell and O’Connell could not be reached by deadline.

The students’ winning photos were matted and framed by Devi McCully of Frames Unlimited and will be sent to Washington, D.C., where County Administrator Darren Coldwell said it will be presented to the Speaker of the House and the Capitol Architect.

“From there it’s final resting place will be in the Sidney Yates building” where the Forest Service is located, Coldwell wrote in an email.

 

Trucker originally from Casselton hauling Capitol Christmas tree to Washington

Thursday, November 16, 2017

From Ag Week, November 16, 2017

FARGO, N.D. — A few days after Thanksgiving, a Casselton boy, now 70, will get a private tour of the White House. That will happen after he drops off a 79-foot tall Engelmann spruce at the U.S. Capitol to serve as the Capitol Christmas tree. He's driving it from Montana aboard a 102-foot long tractor-trailer.

You can see the tree and meet the driver, Larry Spiekermeier, in Fargo on Sunday morning, Nov. 19, if your timing is right.,

The Capitol Christmas tree was cut last week in Montana's Kootenai National Forest, and began its trek to Washington, D.C., on Monday. It will travel nearly 3,500 miles through 10 states, making 20 official stops, before being delivered to the west lawn of the Capitol on Monday, Nov. 27.

The tree will make official stops in the region at Dickinson, Grand Forks, and Browns Valley, Minn., but the Fargo stop is an unscheduled stop that is being made because Spiekermeier grew up in the area, still has many friends and relatives here, and requested it.

The truck and its sizeable entourage will stop to get fuel at Love's truck stop on 39th Street South in Fargo, just west of Interstate 29. Spiekermeier figures he'll arrive there about 11 or 11:30 on Sunday morning, if all goes right.

He will stay as long as it takes to fill the truck's tanks with diesel, probably about 30 minutes. He encourages the public to come see the tree while he does that.

Spiekermeier was chosen to drive the truck by his employer, Whitewood Transport, of Billings, Mont. He was selected because of his exemplary driving record and his expertise at driving extra-large loads. He's never had an accident in 3.5 million miles of driving a big rig.

"It's an honor," Spiekermeier said. "It was a shock that they chose me to do it."

It's a fitting climax to a nearly 50-year driving career for Spiekermeier, who has been driving tractor-trailers since the day he turned 21 on July 18, 1968, the first day he was legally allowed to haul a load across state lines. His employer, Fargo's Mitchell Transport, had him haul a truckload of cement to Minnesota.

Spiekermeier was born in Fargo and grew up in Casselton, where his father owned a farm implement dealership. He graduated from high school at Central Cass School in 1965 and entered the North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton, where he earned a two-year business degree.

Spiekermeier moved to Montana in 1975, without a job lined up. "I liked hunting. I liked the outdoors. I liked the mountains. I just went out and bought an old logging truck, and that's how I got started."

These days, Spiekermeier lives in western Montana in a town called Plains. Although he hasn't lived in North Dakota in many years, he's maintained strong ties to the area. Two brothers live in West Fargo. He has numerous relatives around Enderlin and nearby Sheldon. Until his parents died, he visited Fargo five or six times a year.

Ironically, his daughter now lives in Fargo, where she works as a computer specialist. Spiekermeier and his wife, Mary Ann, regularly travel to Fargo to visit her and their grandkids. He also stops whenever he hauls a load through the area.

He still roots for North Dakota State University athletics teams. "He's pretty annoying with all that NDSU Bison stuff," joked J.B. Behounek, a salesman at Whitewood.

The Capitol Christmas tree (not to be confused with the National Christmas Tree, which is a live pine on the White House grounds that is decorated every year) will be carried in a large container with Plexiglas sides, which will protect the tree from road salt and other damaging materials, while still allowing people to view the tree on its trip to the nation's capital.

Workers spent a week preparing the tree for transport. Its branches measure 30 feet from tip to tip, so they had to be slowly and carefully folded inward to fit into the eight-foot wide box and prevent them from being damaged. The process will be reversed after the tree arrives at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, outside Washington. A 100-gallon "bladder" attached to the tree will keep it moist.

Spiekermeier won't drive his own truck to Washington, but one that has been specially decorated for the occasion. He will also be accompanied by a multi-vehicle entourage. Two U.S. Forest Service law enforcement vehicles, lights flashing, will escort the truck. It will be followed by a second truck that will carry 73 smaller trees that will decorate government offices, plus 12,000 ornaments. Six other vehicles will travel with him.

The tour will include 12 stops in Montana, two in North Dakota, one in Minnesota, three in Missouri, one in Kentucky and one in Maryland. The tour will stop in downtown Dickinson at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 18; downtown Grand Forks at 9 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 19; and Browns Valley at 1:30 p.m. that same day. There will be ceremonies at each stop.

Spiekermeier's wife will ride with him to Fargo. They will rendezvous with his two brothers and daughter in Grand Forks. His wife, daughter, brothers and sister will fly to Washington for the tree-lighting ceremony.

He and his wife will tour the White House. He doesn't know if he'll get to meet President Donald Trump. Would he like to do that? "You bet," he said.

Spiekermeier supports Trump, though he didn't get the opportunity to vote for him. Fittingly, he was on the road.

All is bright: Capitol Christmas Tree will be topped with Montana-made star

Monday, November 13, 2017

The 5-foot tall copper star is the first to come from the state supplying the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, and features a representation of Montana’s state flower, the bitterroot. The star is made from copper as a nod to the rich copper mining tradition of Butte, Mont. It was designed, planned, and funded by the Washington Companies, fabricated by Split Mountain Metals, and lighted by Western Montana Lighting.

    

 

Kenworth T680 Advantage Begins Transport of U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree to Washington, D.C., Following Harvest

Thursday, November 09, 2017

 

LIBBY, Mont., Nov. 9, 2017 – The 53rd U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree – a 79-foot Englemann Spruce from northwestern Montana – began its nearly 3,000-mile journey from the Kootenai National Forest to Washington, D.C., following its harvesting 45 miles north of Libby Tuesday.

After the cutting, the “People’s Tree” was hoisted onto a specially designed flatbed trailer. Larry Spiekermeier, a 1.6-million mile, accident-free driver with Billings, Montana-based Whitewood Transport, hauled the tree in a Kenworth T680 Advantage to a U.S. Forest Service warehouse. There, the special tree will be fitted with a special 80-gallon water bladder to keep it hydrated, carefully wrapped and boxed, before traveling on a tour of 15 community events across Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Missouri, and Kentucky.

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree is 76 years old and weighed in at harvest at about 15,000 pounds, according to Sandi Mason, the U.S. Forest Service’s U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree project leader.“It’s an absolutely beautiful tree,” Mason said. “Despite all of the wildfires that burned in Montana this year, we feel fortunate that the Englemann Spruce chosen in July by the Architect of the U.S. Capitol was untouched by fires.”

The Kenworth T680 Advantage transporting the tree features a distinctive exterior design,with the 2017 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree – Kootenai National Forest seal, brightly lit and colorfully adorned Christmas Tree, and the U.S. Capitol beneath a starry sky with the words “Big Sky. Big Tree. Big Journey.”The T680 also sports thelogo of Whitewood Transport, a recent multiple-year recipient (including 2016) of the Motor Carrier of the Year from the Motor Carriers of Montana.

The T680 features the PACCAR Powertrain equipped with the PACCAR MX-13 engine, PACCAR 12-speed automated transmission with column-mounted shifter, and PACCAR 40,000-pound tandem rear axle. The T680’s specifications include a 76-inch sleeper with Kenworth’s premium “Driver’s Studio” option, TruckTech+ remote diagnostics system, predictive cruise control, idle management system, driver performance center, and premium GT703 seats.

The tour stops begin Monday, Nov. 13, at the Eureka Town Hall in Eureka, Montana, and ends Nov. 26 at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. The tree will be delivered to the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 27. The U.S. Speaker of the House – Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, and a Montanan, chosen by U.S. Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, will light the tree at a special ceremony in early December.

Kenworth Truck Company is the manufacturer of The World’s Best® heavy and medium duty trucks. Kenworth’s Internet home page is at www.kenworth.com. Kenworth is a PACCAR company.

 

 

SkyBitz Celebrates 10 Years of Tracking the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree’s Journey to the Nation’s Capitol

Thursday, November 09, 2017

SkyBitz® will once again provide real-time tracking of the United States Capitol Christmas Tree from Montana to the Nation’s Capitol. Through its tracking solution, SkyBitz will provide a detailed map of the tree’s location, bringing visibility of its entire journey via the newly redesigned website, TracktheTree.com.

“We are excited to support the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree’s journey to Washington, D.C. for the tenth year,” said Henry Popplewell, President, SkyBitz. “Throughout the 10 years, we’ve not only formed great partnerships with our peers in the transportation industry, but also with the national forest community and the Northern-Virginia area where the tree brightens the Capitol for the holidays. We look forward to continuing this wonderful tradition for years to come.”

“We are grateful for SkyBitz’ decade-long support of the Capitol Christmas Tree and continued participation by using its innovative technology so everyone can ‘track the tree,” said Bruce Ward, founder and president of Choose Outdoors.

In addition to providing the latest location information, TracktheTree.com will provide photos from each community celebration and facts about each location. The public can also keep up with the SkyBitz Track the Tree via social media.

Over the past decade SkyBitz has made it possible to track the Capitol Christmas Tree using its global asset management solution. For more information about the SkyBitz solutions used to track the tree, visit: www.skybitz.com/products-services.

 

Excerpts from SkyBiz press release, November 9, 2017

Capitol Christmas Tree begins journey from Yaak, Montana to Washington, DC

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

 

From ABC FOX MONTANA

The journey begins for this year's Capitol Christmas Tree.

Hand-picked this spring from the Kootenai National Forest, it will now travel over 3,000 miles to Washington, DC.

Tuesday marked the "felling" or cutting down of the 81-foot tall Engelmann spruce.

Out of a forest of trees, the U.S. Forest Service narrowed down its selection to six needle-branched contestants.

This final tree was chose because of its luscious green color and full tree limbs.

After it was pruned, a fifth generation sawyer sawed it at the base, which measures 26-inches in diameter.

Using a two-crane pulley system, it was hoisted on top of a semi-truck and laid to rest in a wooden cradle.

For the next week, the limbs on the tree will be slowly tucked into its truck, eight inches at a time, so not to break tree branch and to allow it to fit inside an eight-by-eight foot plexiglass box.

Be sure to join ABC FOX Montana along this journey of hauling one of America's most special Christmas trees.

It will depart from Libby for Whitefish on Monday, and then make several stops in Montana along the way before it reaches its final destination of Washington, D.C.

 

Sawyer Selected to Cut 2017 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

 

A local sawyer has been selected to cut the 2017 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. Kootenai Forest Supervisor recently selected Pete Tallmadge of Troy, Montana with the honor of cutting the Capitol Christmas Tree.

Pete Tallmadge is a life-long resident of northwest Montana. He is a 4th generation Montanan and a 3rd generation logger who works with Tallmadge Logging, which started operation in the 1960’s by his father, Stan Tallmadge. Pete and his wife Pam are the parents of five children and one grandchild.

His company has done a lot of roadbuilding for timber access and 99 percent of all the logging work has been in Lincoln County. Pete and his family have a life-long history in northwest Montana and both his grandfather and uncle were sawyers and now his son, Adam is in the business. “What loggers look like will keep changing, but we would like to be part of the logging industry for future generations in northwest Montana,” said Tallmadge.

When asked about cutting the 2107 Capitol Christmas tree Tallmadge responded, “I’m honored, privileged and a little anxious about the event, but mostly happy that my kids and grandkids will be able to remember that I was a sawyer and that they have a strong family history of working in the timber industry in northwest Montana.”

The tree, which Pete will cut, is a 79 ft. tall Engelmann Spruce that is located on the Three Rivers Ranger District in Troy, Montana. It will be cut on Wednesday, November 8 and drone footage of the tree cutting will be on Facebook and also provided to media outlets.

The tree will then be prepped for the almost 3,000-mile trip, which includes a series of community celebrations and culminates with the official tree lighting in early December. After arriving in Washington, D.C. the tree lighting will occur in early December as determined by the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“We are pleased that a local sawyer agreed to cut the 2017 Capitol Christmas tree,” said Kootenai Forest Supervisor Christopher Savage. “Mr. Tallmadge comes well recommended and has decades of wood-working experience.”

 

Companion Trees Help tell the Story of the Kootenai

Thursday, November 02, 2017

 

In addition to the 79 foot Englemann Spruce, nearly 70 companion trees will make their way to Washington D.C., where they will grace legislative offices and federal buildings, and be decorated with some of the 12,000+ ornaments and nearly 80 tree skirts collected throughout the state of Montana.

Trees came from Libby, Stillwater, Swan, and Kalispell in Northwest Montana. Most range from 6 to 8 feet tall and represent a variety of species.

On October 31, Montana Department of Natural Resources Forester, Mike Justus, collected trees from each area and delivered to Libby, where Steve Gauger, retired Forest Service and Christmas tree farmer from Eureka, bundled and wrapped the trees for transport to D.C.

    

 

Thank you to the Montana Department of Natural Resources for the support!