US Capitol Christmas Tree News

Apex Transportation to Haul the 2020 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Press Release – The holiday season will be a little brighter this year with the help of Apex Transportation, as it takes on the role of transporting the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree to Washington, D.C. An annual gift to the nation, the 2020 tree will make its way to the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol building from the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forests in Colorado.

Apex Transportation was chosen as the hauler for this year’s tree at the recommendation of Great West Casualty Company and based on industry reputation in Colorado, according to Bruce Ward, president of Choose Outdoors, the non-profit partner that assists USDA Forest Service with coordinating the annual public engagement initiative. The tree will be harvested in early November before making the in-state and cross country journey, arriving at the U.S. Capitol in late November. The tree will be decorated with thousands of ornaments made by Coloradans and will light up the nation’s Capitol throughout December.

Opening its doors in 1996, Apex Transportation had humble beginnings with four trucks, a handful of employees, and ambition. With more than 65 trucks and nearing 90 employees, Apex maintains its success by remembering those early days creating strong relationships within the industry and nurturing a family-like atmosphere that keeps us rolling. With locations in Denver and Pueblo, Colorado, Apex serves the state of Colorado and surrounding states with the ability to go anywhere they are needed. It has been recognized with numerous awards from the Colorado Motor Carriers Association, along with the Pinnacol Assurance Workplace Safety Award and Great West Fleet Safety Awards.

“Being selected to be a part of such a high profile and important symbol for the American people is truly exciting beyond words for us at Apex Transportation,” said Walt Schattinger, president of Apex Transportation. “We are humbled by the graciousness of those who chose us and value their belief and trust in Apex with this incredible adventure. We are deeply honored to have the opportunity to represent the beauty of our state, the integrity of our company and tradition of our country.”

The tree will be in great hands with two Apex employees who will ensure the precious cargo is safely delivered. Theron Schmalzried has 42 years and 4 million miles of experience under his belt. He has received numerous awards during his 23 years with Apex, the most recent being the Long Haul Driver of the Month in September 2019. William “Butch” Hanna has been driving for 41 years, including 17 with Apex Transportation. With more than 105,000 hours, he also has numerous internal awards, including Short Haul Driver of the month in October 2019.

Kenworth Truck Company returns for a seventh year as a sponsor of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree program. A specially decaled Kenworth T680 will transport the 50th U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree provided by the USDA Forest Service. Additional transportation partners supporting the journey include Spireon, Inc., Hale Truck and Trailer, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Truckload Carriers Association, TravelCenters of America and LexisNexis VitalChek Network, Inc.

“The annual journey is only possible with the help of strong partnerships throughout Colorado and beyond state lines,” said Dana Gurdunio, District Ranger, GMUG National Forests. “We’re grateful for the resources Apex Transportation, Kenworth Truck Company and all our partners are providing to help make this the best tour to date.”

For more information on how to get involved, please visit the GMUG National Forests website at Follow along the tree’s journey at




U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Selected Virtually

Thursday, September 10, 2020


Press Release - Each year, one of the nation’s national forests provides the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, which graces the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. throughout the holiday season. The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forests, in partnership with the Architect of the Capitol, announced that this year’s U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree will be harvested from the Uncompahgre Plateau on the Ouray Ranger District.

The perfect Capitol Christmas Tree must meet specific criteria. The selected Engelmann Spruce stands 55’ tall and 25’ wide and was chosen virtually from among 10 candidates. “The challenge in selecting a tree for the West Lawn is making sure it is symmetrical, full and in the perfect scale to gracefully adorn the U.S. Capitol. In a normal year, we scour the forest for this special tree. Due to the pandemic, we used videos, pictures and measurements supplied by the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests to identify a suitable Engelmann Spruce that all Coloradans can be proud of,” said Jim Kaufmann, Director of Capitol Grounds and Arboretum for the Architect of the Capitol.

The tree will be harvested in early November before making its journey to the East Coast, arriving at the U.S. Capitol in late November. The Capitol Grounds and Arboretum team will secure and decorate the tree with thousands of handcrafted ornaments from the people of Colorful Colorado. The tree will be lit in early December 2020; the annual lighting of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree is a time-honored tradition of more than 50 years.

Choose Outdoors, Colorado Tourism and a host of other partners, sponsors, and volunteers are contributing funding and in-kind support of the project. GMUG Forest Supervisor Chad Stewart noted that it’s been a true collaborative effort so far. “This year’s tree selection was a little nonconventional, but we are very excited to have the tree selected and look forward to the next phase of the project, planning the tree cutting ceremony,” he said.

For more information on how to get involved, please visit the GMUG National Forest website. To learn more about the history of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, please visit the Architect of the Capitol website.


'Tis the season to make ornaments

Friday, August 21, 2020

The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests (GMUG) are providing one large tree for the West Lawn and 70+ smaller companion trees to adorn offices throughout Washington, D.C. for the 2020 holiday season. Thanks to Coloradans, we are on our way to provide 10,000 handmade ornaments to decorate the trees. Interested and inspired to make your own? There's still time to submit yours, but hurry: ornaments are respectfully requested by Sept. 1. 


Large and small ornaments are needed. Large should be 9-12 inches in size that are colorful, reflective and weatherproof to withstand the elements. Small ornaments should be 4-6 inches and be lightweight and colorful.

Here are our 2020 themes to help determine what ornament(s) you’d like to make.  

1. SMOKEY BEAR—Smokey hat, face, fire prevention messages.
2. UNIQUELY COLORADO—State welcome sign, Colorado C, state symbols.
3. AGRICULTURE—Farming, ranching.
4. WILDLIFE—Deer, elk, moose, bighorn sheep.
5. PLANTS/FLOWERS—Cactus, flowers, trees.
6. RECREATION—Hunting, fishing, camping, skiing, snowmobiling, hiking, boating.
7. MINING—Gold, silver, coal, uranium, gypsum.
8. WATER—Lakes, streams, rivers, water uses, water sports, winter sports.
9. DINOSAURS AND FOSSILS—Stegosaurus, triceratops, fossils.
10. PLACES WE LOVE—Landscapes of Colorado

Please make sure your ornaments are dry, boxed carefully so they don’t break and include a count of how many provided. Drop off or send in your ornaments to:

Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests
Supervisor’s Office
Attn: Cande Read, 2250 South Main Street, Delta, CO, 81416

*Please make arrangements prior to dropping off ornaments by contacting Cande Read (email or phone 970-874-6609).

Ornaments are DUE BY September, 1, 2020


Governor Polis, Forest Service Celebrate U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree from Colorado

Monday, July 27, 2020

Delta, CO – Governor Jared Polis with USDA Forest Service Acting Regional Forester for the Rocky Mountain Region, Jennifer Eberlien, Director of Communications and Sponsorships, Jodi Massey and Director Cathy Ritter from the Colorado Tourism Office, announced the kick-off of the 2020 Capitol Christmas Tree project. Governor Polis and special guests encouraged Coloradans to “Experience Your Nature”, the theme of this year’s tree, and get involved with making an ornament for the tree.

“I’m thrilled that one of Colorado’s magnificent Engelmann Spruce is heading to Washington D.C. to represent our state at the U.S. Capitol during the holidays this year,” said Governor Jared Polis. “Coloradans are proud of our state’s natural beauty, forests, and incredible outdoor spaces, and I’m glad the rest of the country will be able to see a small piece of the majesty that Colorado offers. While this is a difficult time for people across our state and across the country, I hope that Colorado’s contribution to the national Christmas spirit can help bring us all together.”

Every year since 1970, USDA Forest Service has provided the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. Several smaller, companion trees will also be sent to Washington, D.C., to decorate government buildings and public spaces. Providing the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, also known as “The People’s Tree,” is a great honor for the State of Colorado and the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forests. It provides an opportunity to highlight the state’s breathtaking cultural and natural resources and Colorado’s world-class recreational settings and activities. The tree will be displayed on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., with a public tree-lighting ceremony in early December 2020.

“The GMUG is honored and excited to be providing the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. The GMUG plays an important role in Experiencing Your Nature and we look forward to highlighting all that the GMUG has to offer. We are thrilled about the opportunity to work with and showcase the great state of Colorado” said Acting Regional Forester, Jennifer Eberlien.

“We sincerely hope the gift of this towering tree from Colorado for the Capitol lawn helps inspire deep pride in America the Beautiful and happiness throughout the holidays, while showcasing the splendor of Colorado’s Mountains and Mesas region," said Colorado Tourism Director Cathy Ritter."

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree initiative is made possible with cash and in-kind contributions from companies large and small as well as volunteers locally and across America, who provide vital support of time and resources. Sponsors include Kenworth Truck Company, Apex Transportation, Spireon, Inc., Hale Trailer, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Truckload Carriers Association, Great West Casualty Company**, LexisNexis VitalChek Network, Inc., TravelCenters of America, Montrose County Event Center and Bass Pro Shops.

The Forest will be working closely with Choose Outdoors for the project along with a host of other partners, sponsors and volunteers who will contribute funding and thousands of hours to help make ornaments and transport the tree from Colorado to Washington, D.C.

“The annual journey is only possible with the help of strong community partnerships throughout Colorado and beyond state lines,” said Bruce Ward, President of Choose Outdoors. “We’re grateful for the time and resources that are generously provided to celebrate our public lands and help bring hope and joy to the nation.”

Communities will be encouraged to share the experience of caring for, decorating and transporting this gift from Colorado to Washington D.C. For more information on how to get involved and follow the excitement visit the Capitol Christmas Tree website at


‘The People’s Tree’ Lights up the Capitol

Friday, December 06, 2019


A special gift from the Carson National Forest has successfully completed its cross-country journey to Washington, D.C.

Harvested on Nov. 6, 2019, the massive 60-foot blue spruce, known affectionately as the “People’s Tree,” traveled over 2,000 miles and stopped for celebrations in 25 communities before arriving at the U.S. Capitol in late November. Today, the tree stands on the West Front Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building and is decorated with thousands of handcrafted ornaments made by New Mexicans.

The tree was lit Wednesday evening by the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi during a public tree lighting ceremony on the West Front Lawn.

Season 15 winner of the Voice, Chevel Shephard, kicked off the Christmas spirit with a traditional melody, followed by the U.S. Army Brass Quintet and remarks from the New Mexico Delegation, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, and USDA Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen.

The tree will be lit from nightfall until 11 p.m. each evening through Jan. 1, 2020.

The annual lighting of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree is an honored tradition of more than 50 years. In fact, the “People’s Tree” dates back to 1964 when Architect of the Capitol J. George Stewart, at the suggestion of the Speaker of the House John W. McCormack, established the yearly tradition of decorating a tree on the West Front Lawn. Since 1970, the USDA Forest Service has provided the trees. Each year a different national forest has been invited to provide “The People’s Tree” to celebrate the holidays. The Forest Service also works with state forests to provide smaller companion trees for offices in Washington, D.C.


An inside look at the New Mexican products traveling with the US Capitol Christmas tree

Monday, November 25, 2019

As seen on KOB 4

A 60 foot blue spruce from New Mexico has spent the last two weeks traveling across the country. The journey has taken the tree to the U.S. Capitol to be this year's Christmas tree.

The tree wasn't the only thing headed to the U.S. Capitol, though. Those who got to see the tree also were able to get their hands on some classic New Mexican products.

To learn more, watch the interview with Debi and Pat Bartucci of Statewide Products.

Why I love New Mexico’s forests and public lands

Saturday, November 23, 2019


Written by Asher Dean, Winner of the 4th Grade Essay Contest. Asher will travel to Washington D.C. to help light the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree on Dec. 4. 

I heard a story once about “horny toads” from my mother. How she used to catch so many they filled a shoebox. And my grandfather told me about the Lobo’s howl. Both of these animals are rare or endangered now and I have not found one myself. I hope one day to tell my own children about the animals I experience in the forests of New Mexico. Tadpoles, horned owls, fence-tail lizards, trout, coyotes and bats. We hike through the forest into the Rio Grande gorge and I know it is magic. The beauty of it all is more than enchanting, it takes my breath away, or brings me back to it in a way. I feel like Brian from my book, Hatchet, when I spend time in the wilderness and I return to a place of quietness and respect for nature.

Sometimes when I go fishing I catch rainbow trout in the glimmering Red River. I see Rio Grande Chirping Frogs hoping along the riverbank. When I hike in the Taos Ski Valley I see marmots by Williams Lake, 11,000 feet into the deep blue sky. I am stunned when I explore Fossil Hill and discover the fossils of the sea creatures that used to live in New Mexico. It is amazing how a million years ago the New Mexico forests used to be seaweed under the ocean. I see Red Tailed Hawks near the Carson National Forest swooping down to catch little creatures to bring home for their babies. I see Stink Beetles burying their head in the trail near my home in Llano Quemado. I watch lizards climb the trees and scurry off into the wilderness. In Bandalier, I explore the cave the Native Americans used to live in. I can see where the fire burnt the top of the cave and there is a kiva hole to stick my head out of. Going down the 10-foot ladder it scares me and I respect the rich culture that came before me, their fearlessness.

We must keep this beautiful forest natural and unharmed because the animals deserve a home, deserve not to be hurt. The people of this Land of Enchantment deserve the clean air the aspen, ponderosa pine and pinon trees help make. My friends deserve the chance to swim in clear rivers and discover the secrets of our wilderness. When I lie in my bed and dream about my future, I see myself as an entomologist. I want to discover all the insects, arthropods and arachnids in New Mexico. If we protect our open spaces and wild areas then these creatures will still be there for discovery, for hope and for awesomeness.


Enchantment is in the Air

Monday, November 11, 2019


By Ricardo Martinez, Deputy District Ranger, Carson National Forest - A team of USDA Forest Service employees in New Mexico embarked on the first day of the 2019 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Tour.  With a nod to the project’s theme of “Delivering Enchantment”, the day included a tour of the Enchanted Circle, with stops at the Village of Questa, Eagle Nest, near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Angel Fire, and concluded with a community celebration in Taos.

The team got an early start at the facility where the tree was packaged for transport, courtesy of MTC, Inc., north of Questa. Before hitting the road, the New Mexico themed Kenworth W990 underwent a thorough inspection by New Mexico State Police.

In observance of Veteran’s Day, the team and their host communities made honoring Veterans a through line of the day. In Questa, after a viewing of the tree at Alta Vista Elementary, the community gathered to offer a “Veterans’ Salute” to the tree as it left town, before commencing a follow-on ceremony in honor of the village’s veterans. At Eagle Nest, the high school band from nearby Cimarron played a set of patriotic numbers, including the fight songs from each of the armed services, as community members enjoyed the lunch and Christmas cookie reception sponsored by the town.

While size limitations prevented the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree from driving directly to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Angel Fire, the staff at the memorial directed the convoy to a nearby roadside pullout with an incredible view of the memorial.From there, visitors signed the banners and engaged with the project team, memorial staff and visiting dignitaries including New Mexico’s Lieutenant Governor Morales and staff from the office of U.S. Senator Tom Udall.

The day concluded in Taos with the largest event of the day, as several hundred community members filled Civic Plaza Drive. Attendees observed a ceremonial posting of the colors by a VFW provided color guard and participated in the pledge of allegiance, led by Taos Mayor, Dan Barrone. The event included remarks by County Manager, Brent Jaramillo, who joined the County Commission in presenting Challenge Coins to the leaders of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree project on the Carson National Forest. Forest Service employees Ricardo Martinez and Jack Lewis shared gratitude for the support of the People’s Tree before Mariachi El Tigre of Taos High School stole the show, regaling onlookers with a flourish of sound and energy befitting the event’s fanfare.

The team looks forward to day 2 of 14 with stops at Taos Pueblo, Chama, and Dulce.


Tree Cutting and Celebration Kicks Off Nationwide Tour for the 2019 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree

Thursday, November 07, 2019

People from all over the Land of Enchantment witnessed the harvesting of the 2019 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree from the Carson National Forest. The event, which was several months in the making, kicked off shortly after sunrise on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019.

Before the 60-foot blue spruce was harvested, an audience listened to remarks from several dignitaries, including Michelle Lujan Grisham, the Governor of New Mexico. She tells us about the pride she and other New Mexicans share about the public lands found in New Mexico. "New Mexico is incredibly proud of our beautiful forests and great outdoors," said the Governor. "It's such a privilege to share a small piece of our public lands with the nation’s capitol for this year's celebration."

Once the tree was cut from the ground, it was hoisted into the air by cranes provided by Wilbanks Trucking Services, LLC. The tree was then placed and secured onto a Kenworth W900 transport trailer provided by Hale Trailer and removed from the Carson National Forest to embark on a nationwide tour. The tour kicks off on Nov. 11 and will visit 30 communities before arriving in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 25, 2019.


This is not the first time the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree was harvested from a national forest in the Southwestern Region of the USDA Forest Service. In 2009, a blue spruce tree was harvested from the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests in Arizona. An Engelmann spruce tree was harvested from the Santa Fe National Forest in 2005. The first U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree harvested from the Southwestern Region of the Forest Service was a blue spruce from the Carson National Forest in 1991.

Cal Joyner, Regional Forester of the Southwestern Region of the Forest Service, calls it an honor to provide the capitol with a Christmas tree once again. "Service is in our name, it’s one of our core values, it's an honor to serve all of you every day," Joyner said to onlookers at Wednesday’s harvest. "The Forest Service is excited to celebrate the diversity of New Mexico." Video of the 2019 Capitol Christmas Tree harvest is available on the Carson National Forest's Facebook page.


The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree cutting and celebrations are made possible with donations of time and resources from companies large and small as well as volunteers locally and across America. Sponsors include Kenworth Truck Company, Wilbanks Trucking Services, LLC, Spireon, Inc., Elvis Duran & Alex Carr, Hale Trailer, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Great West Casualty Company, Meritor, Public Service Company of New Mexico, TravelCenters of America, Truckload Carriers Association, Husqvarna, Town of Red River, The Joy Trip Project, Alaska Airlines, Heritage Hotels & Resorts, Taos County, New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, Presbyterian Healthcare Services, National Forest Foundation, Red River Brewing Company, Christmas Tree Promotion Board, National Press Club, LexisNexis VitalChek Network, Inc., Bass Pro Shops, Red River Ski & Summer Area, Lifts West and MTC, Inc

To follow the tree during the journey to Washington, D.C., visit

Gov. Lujan Grisham announces winner of 2019 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Essay Contest

Monday, November 04, 2019

Gov. Lujan Grisham and the Carson National Forest on Monday announced Asher Dean, a fourth grader from Arroyos del Norte Elementary in Arroyo Seco, as the winner of the 2019 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Essay Contest. 

Hundreds of essays were submitted to the contest, for which fourth graders from around New Mexico were invited to write about why they love New Mexico’s forests and public lands in line with the theme of the 2019 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, “Delivering Enchantment!” With his winning entry, Mr. Dean has won a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C., and join Gov. Lujan Grisham and the Speaker of the House in lighting the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree.  

“New Mexico is proud to be providing this year’s Capitol Christmas Tree,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said. “I was so encouraged by the many wonderful essay submissions we received about the importance of New Mexico’s public lands and forests. Asher’s essay spoke so eloquently about the beauty he sees in New Mexico public lands, and I am thrilled that he’ll be joining me in our nation’s capital to see a beautiful tree from Northern New Mexico on display for so many to enjoy.”

Every year, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service selects one lucky national forest to provide the best possible Christmas tree to place on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol building. The tradition of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, or the “People’s Tree,” began in 1964, and in 2019 New Mexico will be providing the tree for the third time.

This year’s tree, coming from the Red River area in the Questa Ranger District of the Carson National Forest, will be felled in a cutting ceremony on Wednesday, Nov. 6. The contest was organized in coordination with the U.S.D.A. Forest Service and supported by the non-profit organization, Choose Outdoors.