US Capitol Christmas Tree News

America’s Forests with Chuck Leavell Debuts Special Colorado Christmas Episode on Dec. 17

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Denver, CO (Dec. 10, 2020) – National TV series for public television America’s Forests with Chuck Leavell returns to Colorado to celebrate a very merry U.S. Capitol Christmas. The new episode will premiere on Rocky Mountain PBS and rmpbs.org on Thursday, Dec. 17 at 8:00 p.m. MT and shines a light on the 50 year tradition in which the USDA Forest Service provides a tree for the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building during the holidays. The 2020 tree is provided by the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests (GMUG) on the Western Slope of Colorado.

Chuck Leavell may be best known as the keyboardist and musical director for The Rolling Stones, but he is also an educated and enthusiastic forestry advocate, conservationist and tree farmer. As host of the series, Leavell serves as the on-camera guide, travelling across the country to interview people who are passionate about the gifts we receive from our forests.

“The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree is a mechanism for the nation to come together during this magical time of year and to celebrate one of our most treasured resources”, said Leavell. “Whether for building or for recreation, our forests are good for the economy and for the spirit.”

During this special episode, Leavell travels to the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests to follow the journey – from selection and cutting to ornament making and community celebrations – of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree as it makes its way from Colorado to Washington, D.C. Leavell also learns about the multiple uses of this winter wonderland by sharing adventures and hearing from staff from the USDA Forest Service.

The series is produced by Choose Outdoors and 42 Degrees North Media and the special episode is made possible with generous support from the USDA Forest Service, STIHL Inc. and Red Wing Shoes.

“The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, or “People’s Tree”, is a time honored tradition that brings hope and joy to people across the country”, said Bruce Ward, president of Choose Outdoors. “We are proud to help tell this very special story during a year when the world needs it more than ever.”

Following the Dec. 17 premiere on Rocky Mountain PBS and rmpbs.org, the episode will be available for viewing online at americasforestswithchuckleavell.com. Follow along on Facebook (@americasforests), Instagram (@americasforestswithchuck) and Twitter (@americasforests)

*Photos and a :30 promo video available online here. Please credit Markus Van Meter for photography use.

 

2020 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree to be lit Dec. 2

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

The 2020 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree will be lit on Wednesday, Dec. 2 at 5:00 p.m. ET. The brief ceremony will take place on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol and include representatives from the Colorado Delegation, Architect of the Capitol, USDA Forest Service and Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. The event is not open to the public this year but will be available for viewing online at C-Span.org. 

The tree will be on display and lit every evening at dusk through January 1, 2021.


Governor Polis Declares Nov. 30 Experience Your Nature Day

Monday, November 30, 2020

Colorado, USDA Forest Service Announces Capitol Christmas Tree Essay Contest Winner

Monday, November 30, 2020

Press release - Governor Jared Polis and First Gentleman Marlon Reis, in partnership with the USDA Forest Service and the Colorado Tourism Office, have chosen Alessandra Wilson as the winner of the 2020 Colorado Christmas Tree Essay Contest. Ms. Wilson is a fourth grade student at Peak to Peak Elementary in Lafayette, Colorado and is awarded first-place recognition for her essay, “Quandary is Home”. Second-place is awarded to Adam Cartwright of Boulder, and the Third-place winner is Corrie Malone of Wheat Ridge.

“These amazing essays showcase the talent of Colorado’s young writers and highlight the special role that our amazing outdoor areas have in our lives,” said Governor Polis.

“To select the winning essays, we outlined 3 key criteria criteria: mention of how nature has been a way to relax and de-stress during the course of the COVID019 pandemic; mention of specific trips and places in Colorado; and quality of writing,” said First Gentleman Reis. “The Governor and I enjoyed reading these essays and learning how much the outdoors mean to students across our state.”

The Essay Contest was announced last month and Colorado fourth graders across the state were invited to take part in sending the Capitol Christmas Tree to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.. The contest received 98 total submissions from participants in 25 Colorado communities. Students were asked to describe why Colorado’s vast, great outdoors are important to them for a chance to win an exclusive tour of the Colorado State Capitol. Winner Alessandra Wilson will be welcomed to the capitol building sometime next year.

Ms. Wilson’s essay exemplified this year’s U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree theme, “Experience Your Nature,” which prompted students to share how they’ve spent time outside in Colorado during this challenging year and why the state’s forests are important to them. She writes of her time spent with family in Poudre Canyon, Telluride, and Breckenridge throughout the year, and the feeling of freedom that is brought by breathing freely in nature. Alessandra’s full essay can be found here. Upon hearing the news of her award, Alessandra said "Thank you so much, I wrote this from the heart."

The 98 competitive submissions demonstrated the importance of nature to young people in all four corners of the state. The top three essays were hand selected by Governor Polis and First Gentleman Reis. To honor the skilled submissions of all of 98 contestants, the 16 finalists, and the three winners, Governor Polis issued an official proclamation making November 30th, 2020 “Experience your Nature Day”.

The essay contest is operated in conjunction with the USDA Forest Service’s “Every Kid Outdoors” initiative, which invites all U.S. fourth- and fifth-graders and family members fee-free access to more than 2,000 sites on national forests and grasslands for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year. Each year, a different national forest provides a tree to light up the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol building for the holiday season. This year, the 50th anniversary of the USDA Forest Service’s participation, theGrand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forests in partnership with nonprofit partner Choose Outdoors and Colorado Tourism recently delivered the 2020 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree to Washington, D.C. for the 2020 holiday season.

The tree was harvested from the Uncompahgre National Forest on November 6th and will be lit by Speaker of the House, the Honorable Nancy Pelosi, on Wednesday, December 2 at 5 p.m. ET.

 

Twas the day of the Tree Cuttting

Friday, November 06, 2020

Dana Gardunio is a District Ranger for the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests, Ouray Ranger District. She is a project lead of this year's U.S Capitol Christmas Tree and read this poem as a part of Nov. 5 tree cutting ceremony. Enjoy!

Twas the day of the cutting, when all through the forest
Not a creature was stirring, not even a tourist;
The saws were staged by the tree with care,
In hopes that the crowd soon would be there;
Coloradans were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of Christmas trees danced in their heads;
And Chad in his 'kerchief, and me in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for our long winter nap,
When out on the forest there arose such a clatter,
We sprang from our offices to see what was the matter.
Away to the Plateau we flew like a flash,
Hiked over the Divide Road and climbed over the slash.
The sunlight shining on the new-fallen snow,
Gave a luster of many a speaker below;
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But an 80 ft trailer all loaded with gear,
With a little old logger so lively and merry,
I knew in a moment he must be Sawyer Perry.
More rapid than eagles his swampers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of Mt. Sneffels! to the top of the Grand Mesa tall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away to Washington, DC all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild snowstorm fly,
The sleigh crossed Colorado, a state that’s mile high;
Across the Rockies the elves they flew
With the sleigh full of trees, and ornaments too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the news
“Experience Your Nature,” any adventure you choose
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the highway Cathy Ritter and Jodi Massey came with a bound.
They were dressed all in outdoor gear, from their heads to their toes,
And their clothes were all branded with Capitol Christmas Tree logos;
A bundle of sponsors they had flung on their backs,
And they looked like hikers just opening their packs.
Their eyes—how they twinkled! their dimples, how merry!
Their cheeks were like roses, their noses like a cherry!
Now the cranes, their cables were drawn up like a bow,
To load the tree on the “sleigh” and get ready to go;
The cradle held the tree tightly in its teeth,
And the banner, it encircled the tree like a wreath;
The drivers, oh how they were so bright and jolly,
Spreading Christmas joy while singing “deck the halls with boughs of holly.”
Over 4 million miles of road time, they were experienced old elfs,
And I grinned when I saw them, in spite of myself;
A wink of their eyes and a twist of the head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
Their team spoke not a word, but went straight to their work,
And drove the tree right into DC; then turned with a jerk;
And laying a finger aside of their nose,
And giving a nod, up on the West Lawn the tree rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all went like the down of a thistle.
But I heard them exclaim, as they drove out of sight—
“Happy Holidays to all, and to all a good night!”

2020 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Cutting Ceremony

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Virtual Opportunity to View Historic 2020 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Cutting

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Press release - Delta, Colorado, October 28, 2020– After over a year of planning, the time has come to harvest the 2020 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree — a 55’ tall and 25’ wide Engelman Spruce — from the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forests.

The virtual cutting ceremony will take place on Thursday, Nov. 5 within the GMUG National Forests and will include brief remarks by USDA Forest Service leadership, local elected officials and project partners. A livestream of the ceremony and cutting will be available on the GMUG National Forests Facebook page.

The cutting ceremony will begin at 2:30 p.m. MT. The tree will be cut using a STIHL MS 500i chainsaw and supported by cranes provided by Valley Cranes. The tree will be placed on a trailer provided by Hale Trailer before being transported off the forest by a Kenworth T680.

Once wrapped and secured, the tree will begin its journey to Washington, D.C., Nov. 10. The tree will visit 10 communities for a series of outdoor festivities hosted by local communities at fair grounds, schools, main streets, visitor centers, convention centers and retailers. Well-wishers will have a chance to take photos, sign banners on the sides of the truck, learn more about the GMUG National Forests and the great state of Colorado and more. Festivities are free and open to the public.

Safety of tour staff, event attendees and the tree are the top priority. Face coverings are required for all events and social distancing will be maintained. Along the way, we ask the public to be aware of the truck’s blind spots, wide turning radius, and longer stopping distances on the road so we can all arrive safely to our destinations.

*Subject to change. Monitor website at www.uscapitolchristmastree.com for the latest updates. Follow along online at and @uscapitolchristmastree on Facebook and Instagram.

 

U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Journey to D.C. Begins Nov. 6

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Press Release- Each year, a different national forest provides a tree to light up the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol building for the holiday season. The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forests in partnership with nonprofit partner Choose Outdoors and Colorado Tourism will bring this special gift from Colorado to Washington, D.C. for the 2020 holiday season with special events in 10 communities along the way.

The tree’s journey officially begins Nov. 6 when it will be cut on the Uncompahgre National Forest. Before the cutting, a short ceremony will take place and include remarks by USDA Forest Service leadership, local elected officials and project partners. A livestream of the ceremony and cutting will be available for viewing online on the GMUG National Forests Facebook page.

On Nov. 10, the tree will visit 10 communities for a series of outdoor festivities hosted by local communities at fair grounds, schools, main streets, visitor centers, convention centers and retailers. Well-wishers will have a chance to take photos, sign banners on the sides of the truck, learn more about the GMUG National Forests and the great state of Colorado and more. Festivities are free and open to the public for all to enjoy.

Beginning Nov.10, the tree’s journey can be tracked in real time online at capitoltreetracker.com hosted by Spireon, Inc., with tour stops* including:

Tuesday, Nov. 10
10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. MST San Miguel CountyFairgrounds (1165 Summit St, Norwood, CO 81423)
3:30 p.m. – 6 p.m. MST Montrose Visitor Center (107 S Cascade Ave., Montrose, CO 81401)

Wednesday, Nov. 11
9:30 a.m. – 11 a.m. MST Ouray County Courthouse (541 4th St, Ouray, CO 81427)
5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m. MST Grand Junction Convention Center (159 Main St, Grand Junction, CO 81501)

Thursday, Nov. 12
10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. MST Downtown Paonia (Grand Avenue, Between 2nd and 3rd Street, Paonia, CO 81428)
2 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. MST Gunnison Community School (1099 N 11th St, Gunnison, CO 81230) *For students and families.

Friday, Nov. 13
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.MST Salida High School - Student Parking Lots (26 Jones Avenue, Salida, CO 81201)

Saturday, Nov. 14
5 p.m. – 7 p.m. MST Bass Pro Shops (7970 Northfield Blvd, Denver, CO 80238)

Tuesday, Nov. 17
3 p.m. – 6 p.m. EST Asheville Outlets (800 Brevard Rd Suite 805, Asheville, NC 28806)

Friday, Nov. 20:
Delivery to West Lawn, U.S. Capitol Building

Safety of tour staff, event attendees and the tree are the top priority. Face coverings are required for all events and social distancing will be maintained. Along the way, we ask the public to be aware of the large truck’s huge blind spots, wide turns, and longer stopping distances on our roads so we can all arrive safely to our destinations.

The initiative 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. 2020 sponsors include Kenworth Truck Company, Apex Transportation, 42 Degrees North Media, Spireon, Inc., Hale Trailer, Chuck Leavell, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, STIHL, Truckload Carriers Association, Great West Casualty Company, Valley Crane, Red Wing Shoes, National Forest Foundation, Society of American Foresters, LexisNexis VitalChek Network, Inc., The Joy Trip Project, Loki, Montrose County, Delta County, Seirus, TravelCenters of America, Bass Pro Shops, Citizens State Bank and Vesmir.

Follow along online at www.uscapitolchristmastree.com and @uscapitolchristmastree on Facebook and Instagram.


*Subject to change. Monitor website at www.uscapitolchristmastree.com/tour for the latest updates.

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 https://www.fs.usda.gov/gmug. Follow along the tree’s journey at www.uscapitolchristmastree.com.

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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.