US Capitol Christmas Tree

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 www.capitoltreetracker.com.

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. 

 

Kenworth W990 Features Special Design for 55th U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Tour

Thursday, October 31, 2019

A special Kenworth W990, sporting a dynamic graphics wrap, will transport the 55th U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree from the Nov. 6 tree-cutting ceremony in Carson National Forest in New Mexico to the tree-lighting ceremony in early December on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

“When we were contacted to see if we would be interested in transporting the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, we were honored to even be considered,” said Shane Phipps, safety director for Wilbanks Trucking Services. “It didn’t take us long to say ‘yes.’ Everyone here is very excited about taking part in moving this special tree. While we’re a company that specializes in heavy haul, we’re also very experienced in moving oversized loads – and the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree is just that. Moving the tree will be unique for us, but we’re more than capable. We’ll even be using our own multiple cranes to lift the tree onto the back of the trailer.”

Wilbanks employees Josh Garcia, Brum Stephens, and Josh Rice were nominated by their peers and selected by company leadership to drive the special Kenworth W990. “They’re excited not only for the tour, but for being able to drive the newest Kenworth,” he said. “We run close to 100 trucks in our operation, including several Kenworths, but the W990 is new, so our guys can’t wait to get behind the wheel.”

For the sixth consecutive year, a Kenworth truck will deliver “The People’s Tree.”

“Over the years, we’ve heard how special this trip is for the trucking company making the delivery, and how meaningful the tour is for adults and kids alike when the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree makes its way through all the towns to Washington, D.C.,” said Laura Bloch, Kenworth assistant general manager for sales and marketing. “The annual lighting of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree is an important American tradition. The tour brings American pride to all those involved, and to all those who see the special tree traveling across America. We’re especially excited that the Kenworth W990 will again transport the tree.”

The W990, which is equipped with a 76-inch mid-roof sleeper, also features the PACCAR Powertrain with the PACCAR MX-13 engine rated at 455-hp and 1,650 lb-ft of torque, PACCAR 12-speed automated transmission, and PACCAR 40K tandem rear axles. The truck is also specified with the W990 Limited Edition interior, premium Kenworth GT703 seats and audio system, Kenworth Nav+HD, predictive cruise control, 1800W inverter, 180-degree swivel passenger seat, and Kenworth TruckTech+® Remote Diagnostics.

 

U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree to be Harvested from Carson National Forest Nov. 6, 2019

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

After nearly a year of planning, the time has come to harvest the 2019 United States Capitol Christmas Tree — a 60-foot blue spruce — from the Carson National Forest. USDA Forest Service is hosting two public events Wednesday, Nov. 6, in partnership with the Town of Red River and project sponsors, so New Mexicans can both witness and celebrate this important moment in the yearlong campaign.

Cutting Ceremony (Carson National Forest, meet at Red River Conference Center)
The cutting ceremony will take place at 9:00 a.m. within the Carson National Forest and include brief remarks by representatives from the Forest Service, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Choose Outdoors, New Mexico Tourism, local elected officials, and project partners. 

On Nov. 6, shuttles will bring attendees to and from the cutting, as parking is not available at the site. Those wishing to attend the cutting will meet at the Red River Conference Center and shuttles will run continuously starting at 7:30 a.m, with the cutting ceremony beginning at 9:00 a.m. Refreshments and bathroom facilities will be available. Once the tree is cut, it will be lifted by cranes provided by Wilbanks Trucking Services, LLC, and secured to a trailer provided by Hale Trailer before being transported out of the forest by a Kenworth W990. Attendees may remain and watch as the tree is loaded onto the trailer up until 11:30 a.m., when the last shuttle will depart to return to the Red River Conference Center. Attendees are advised that the event is outside and to dress appropriately for inclement weather, including rain or snow.

A live stream of the cutting will be available online on Facebook via CarsonNF and USCapitolChristmasTree will be shown at the Red River Conference Center and the Red River Brewery.

Community Celebration (Red River Conference Center, 101 River St, Red River, NM) 
The community celebration at the Red River Conference Center will take place from 12:00 – 3:00 p.m. The tree will be on display for the first hour, along with celebrations for Smokey Bear’s 75th anniversary and a Christmas cookie party. Children should bring their Christmas wish lists, as Santa Claus will be in attendance.

Both events are free and open to the public, and registration is not required. We hope you can join us in person or online! 

Who Gets to Decorate the “People’s Tree”?

Friday, September 20, 2019

 

Providing 10,000 handcrafted Christmas ornaments to adorn the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree and 70 companion trees is no small feat, but with the help of the community, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service is well on its way to achieving that goal! Every year, the Forest Service selects a different national forest to provide the iconic tree and all the trimmings. This year, it will hail from the Questa Ranger District of northern New Mexico’s Carson National Forest, and communities from all over the state are coming together to help deliver a piece of the enchantment of New Mexico, to the rest of the country. The Village of Questa, New Mexico, and their local farmers market are great examples of the overwhelming community involvement that makes the tradition of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree possible.

Nestled among the majestic conifers of the Enchanted Circle sits the small mining community of Questa, New Mexico. Officially founded in 1842, the Village of Questa is in many ways the quintessential northern New Mexican town, while also representing a broader, small-town American, post-industrial march into modernity. The Questa Farmers Market is an expression of that social and economic transition — and a tasty one at that!

With the creation of the market, this tight-knit community along the Red River decided to go back to their farming and ranching roots. From Costilla to Taos, community members come together every Sunday during the summer, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., to sell their fresh confections, produce, meat, flowers, and arts and crafts. Local musician Chris Arellano, a native of Costilla, frequently plays at the market, providing a uniquely New Mexican ambiance with a splash of Nashville thrown in for good measure.

Amid the smell of freshly baked horno-bread, the jubilation of local residents dancing the marcha — a line dance traditionally danced at weddings and celebrations — and the unique rhythms of New Mexican Spanish music, market-goers stop by the Forest Service table to put their personal flair on Christmas ornaments headed to Washington, D.C. Ornament makers punch designs into tin plates and color tree cookies, creating folk-art ornaments that are distinctly New Mexican.

The roots of agriculture in the area run deep, going back before the incorporation of the town. Originally known as San Antonio del Rio Colorado (St. Anthony of Red River), the settlement was later dubbed Questa — an anglicization of the Spanish word cuesta, meaning slope or hill — referring to the hill on which the town is situated. By the time the village was officially founded in 1842, Mexican settlers had been farming the Red River valley for many years; and Native American tribes like the Jicarilla Apache, Kiowa, Ute and Navajo had hunted on the land for generations. It seems fitting that this year’s U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree should come from such a place, where agriculture has been an integral part of the local culture for so long.

Commercial mining shaped contemporary life in Questa as well. Molybdenum, a mineral used in the steel production, was mined in the area beginning in 1922. This supported the local economy and provided well-paying jobs for many in Questa and the surrounding communities. When the Chevron Corp. closed the mine in 2014, the resulting economic vacuum put the community’s resolve and resourcefulness to the test.

As the nation’s energy priorities shift and the demands on our natural resources change, small towns across the country are looking for ways to sustain themselves economically. For Questa, this means shifting their focus from mining to tourism and renewable energy. In this vein, Chevron already converted a substantial portion of the tailings facility from the now-defunct molybdenum mine into solar panels, and public meetings are being held for a possible solar farm in Cerro, New Mexico.

On the tourism front, Questa District Ranger Jack Lewis says he is committed to working with the community to help bolster tourism to the forest and surrounding areas. This includes plans to develop multiple trails for hiking, horseback riding and off-highway vehicle use, connecting the Village of Questa with the Town of Red River and its associated tourism.

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree and the Questa Farmers Market are just a couple of examples of the exciting new things that are happening around the Enchanted Circle. Learn more about the Questa Farmers Market, trails and things to do in Questa, New Mexico, and U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree updates and events

   

 

Gov. Lujan Grisham, Carson National Forest announce 2019 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree essay contest

Friday, September 13, 2019

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the Carson National Forest on Friday announced an essay-writing contest for New Mexico fourth graders as part of the celebration of the 2019 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, which will come from the Land of Enchantment. The contest winner will have the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C., to join the Speaker of the House of Representatives in lighting the 2019 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree.

Fourth graders from around the state are invited to participate in the contest, writing 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!”

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, the tree will be coming from the Red River area in the Questa Ranger District of the Carson National Forest.

Ten thousand ornaments have been made by New Mexicans around the state to decorate the tree in Washington, D.C.

The “Every Kid in a Park” initiative invites all U.S. fourth graders and their families to experience our country’s natural treasures, rich history and vibrant culture. In that vein, the USDA Forest Service and Gov. Lujan Grisham invite fourth-grade students across New Mexico to tell us what you think makes our forests and public lands special. Gov. Lujan Grisham will select one winning student essay, whose author will be flown to Washington, D.C., along with a guardian, to attend festivities and light the 2019 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree during the first week of December.

The essay prompt was distributed to all New Mexico elementary schools and may also be found here. Submissions are due by October 4, 2019.

Ornament Drop off

Thursday, August 29, 2019

 

Calling all ornament makers! When your ornaments are complete, consider dropping off at one of two locations:

Drop off Event:
September 23-26 from 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
September 27 between 8:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Southwestern Regional Office
333 Broadway SE, Albuquerque, NM 87102

Daily
Anytime prior to October between 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Carson National Forest Supervisor’s Office
208 Cruz Alta Rd., Taos, NM 87571

Visit the ornament page for more information on our project needs and suggested themes.

Download ornament drop off information.

 

 

Wilbanks Trucking Services, LLC to Haul the 2019 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree

Friday, August 23, 2019

 

The holiday season will be a little brighter this year with the help of Wilbanks Trucking Services, LLC, 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 2019 tree will make its way to the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol building from the Carson National Forest in New Mexico. This is the second time a tree has been selected from the Carson and third time from New Mexico.

Wilbanks Trucking also will provide crane support as the tree is cut in early November and prepared for the 2,000-mile expedition, which will include a series of 30+ community celebrations and culminate with the official tree lighting in early December.

Wilbanks Trucking was chosen as the hauler for this year’s tree at the recommendation of Great West Casualty Company and based on industry reputation in New Mexico, according to Bruce Ward, president of Choose Outdoors, the non-profit partner that assists USDA Forest Service with coordinating the annual public engagement initiative.

Ronnie Wilbanks started the organization in 1987 with only a few trucks in the backyard in Artesia, NM and has since grown to employing 250 with additional locations in Hobbs, NM and Odessa, TX — weathering the storms of the boom and bust oil and gas industry. Many of Wilbanks’ trucks are custom built to assist in the construction of oil and gas rigs, and employees are experts in hauling oversized, overweight loads, making them the perfect fit to transport the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree.

“Wilbanks is proud to provide everyday logistics services to transport the 2019 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, and to represent New Mexico and its diverse resources spanning from the Oil and Gas Industry in the Permian Basin, to its beautiful national forests in Northern New Mexico,” said Shane Phipps, Safety Director, Wilbanks Trucking Services, LLC.

Three Wilbanks employees will ensure the precious cargo is safely delivered, having been nominated by peers and selected by company leadership.

Josh Garcia is a second-generation employee whose passion for trucking started from the age of 6, riding along side with his father. Garcia’s father and uncle were the first two employees of Wilbanks Trucking in 1987. Garcia joined the team professionally straight out of high school in 2004. Starting as a swamper, Garcia obtained his CDL in 2006 and has obtained the skills to operate a gin pole truck, tandem, forklift loaders, and cranes. Promoted into management, his knowledge and skills in the rig moving industry have proved vital in overseeing daily field operations. Garcia says, “I feel honored to be selected as part of the transportation of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. I have hauled thousands of oversized loads in the oil and gas industry, so hauling the Capitol’s Christmas tree will be an amazing opportunity and exciting challenge.”

Josh Rice has been a part of the Wilbanks organization for more than 15 years and driving commercial vehicles for 20 years. As a third-generation rig mover, he is passionate about his profession, primarily servicing the oil and gas industry of eastern New Mexico and west Texas. Rice has hauled over 10,000 oversized loads including sub structures and derricks which range in weight from 50,000 to 200,000 pounds. He is NCCCO lattice boom certified to operate crawler cranes as well as forklift certified, and can also operate gin trucks and tandems. Rice says, “I feel a great sense of responsibility to be able to participate in this annual tradition. Christmas is my favorite holiday! This grand tree represents family and tradition to millions of Americans across the United States, as I know it does for me. This adventure will definitely be one of the most unique and memorable hightlights of my career.”

Brum Stephens has hauled everything from cattle and cotton to farm machinery and steel beams. He started in the oilfield in 1996, originally selling drill bits before launching his own business in 2000 providing rental trailers, manlifts and field welders with trucking services and support on rig moves. Stephens ultimately sold to and joined the Wilbanks Trucking team in 2013. About the honor Stephens says, “Less people have hauled a Christmas tree to the Capitol than have won the lottery. This is my lottery win! It will definitely be something I will never forget, and something that my children and grandchildren can look upon and have a sense of pride.”

Kenworth Truck Company returns for a sixth year as a sponsor of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree program. A specially decaled Kenworth W990 will transport the 55th U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. The Kenworth W990 is equipped with a 76-inch mid-roof sleeper and features the PACCAR Powertrain with PACCAR’s MX-13 engine rated at 455-hp and 1,650 lb-ft of torque, 12-speed automated transmission, and 40K tandem rear axle. The truck is also specified with the W990 Limited Edition interior, premium GT703 seats and audio system, Kenworth Nav+HD, predictive cruise control, 1800W inverter, 180-degree swivel passenger seat, and Kenworth TruckTech+® remote diagnostics. The W990 will provide a very comfortable work environment for this year’s tour drivers.

“Kenworth is proud to once again play a part in delivering the ‘People’s Tree’ to our nation’s capital,” said Kurt Swihart, Kenworth marketing director. “The cross-country tour offers the opportunity for people to see this national symbol of celebration, and the Kenworth W990 is the right truck for this important job.”

“The annual journey is only possible with the help of strong partnerships throughout New Mexico and beyond state lines,” said Ricardo Martinez, Deputy District Ranger, Carson National Forest. “We’re grateful for the resources Wilbanks Trucking and Kenworth Truck Company are providing to help make this the best tour to date.”

Additional transportation partners include Spireon, Inc., Truckload Carriers Association, Hale Trailer, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Meritor and LexisNexis VitalChek Network, Inc., in addition to local and national partners including Elvis Duran & Alex Carr, PNM Resources, Husqvarna, Alaska Airlines, Taos County, and Christmas Tree Promotion Board.

For related news, events and tour information, and to track the tree cross-country, visit www.uscapitolchristmastree.com, along with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

"Christmas in July” themed night at Isotopes Park this Friday

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

From NewMexico.org: The New Mexico Tourism Department announces the Albuquerque Isotopes home game on Friday, July 26, 6:35 pm, will be themed “Christmas in July” to celebrate New Mexico’s contribution of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree for 2019.

“We’re very fortunate that New Mexico was selected to supply the Capitol Christmas Tree for 2019 because this provides the opportunity to showcase New Mexico’s forests, outdoor experiences, and state pride on a national level,” said Tourism Secretary Jen Paul Schroer. “We encourage all New Mexico residents to share their state pride by participating in ornament-building workshops and attending one of the many road stop events scheduled throughout New Mexico later in November when the tree begins its journey to Washington D.C.”

Families are encouraged to visit an ornament-building booth in the concourse where they will have the chance to create an ornament that will be displayed on the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree when it makes its way to Washington D.C. later this year.

The first 2,400 fans through the gates will also receive a free New Mexico True t-shirt.

The 2019 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree was selected from the Carson National Forest near Questa, NM. This will be the third time New Mexico will be supplying the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. New Mexico first supplied the tree in 1991 from the Carson National Forest, and again in 2005 from the Santa Fe National Forest. New Mexico residents who are interested in partaking in events and celebrations regarding the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree or tracking the tree’s eventual journey to Washington D.C. are encouraged to visit www.uscapitolchristmastree.com for more information on how to participate.

Officials go ‘shopping’ for US Capitol Christmas tree in Carson NF

Wednesday, June 26, 2019


QUESTA, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s only June, but U.S. Capitol workers are going Christmas tree shopping in northern New Mexico. This year, it’s New Mexico’s turn to supply a giant tree for Capitol Hill.

“I need to know my distance to the tree,” said a U.S. Forest Service worker. USFS workers are hard at work in the Carson National Forrest near Questa, trying to figure out how big this tree is.

“This tree is 49 feet tall,” said the USFS worker. Sadly, this tree is coming up short—almost 21 feet short of what they’re looking for.

“We’re selecting the 2019 US Capitol Christmas tree,” said Jim Kaufmann, Director of Capitol Grounds and Arboretum.

This year, the USFS picked New Mexico to find a Christmas tree grand enough for the west lawn at the U.S. Capitol. But in this forest, they’re having a tough time finding the perfect tree.

“I was really hoping the Forest Service was going to make my job easy, but they did not do that,” said Kaufmann. “They’ve made my job pretty difficult. They’ve showed me quite a number of really good candidates.”

Capitol workers said they’re looking for a tree that stands out, and well, stands up straight, too. “It has to be straight because behind the Christmas tree will be at the Washington Monument,” said Kaufmann.

The tree not only has to look good, but it also has to hold up thousands of handmade ornaments from New Mexicans showcasing all things New Mexico—like chile, hot air balloons, even Smokey Bear.

“When we take that tree to D.C. and it gets stood up on the west lawn of the Capitol…that it’s clear that the collage of the ornaments on there, that it’s representing New Mexico well,” said USFS Deputy District Ranger Ricardo Martinez.

Although they haven’t picked out a tree yet, they’re not ruling out any type of tree. Well, except for one.

“Charlie Brown Christmas trees make good trees too,” said Kaufmann. “But unfortunately, we will not be getting a Charlie Brown Christmas tree.”

Workers said they hope to find that Capitol tree by the end of the week. They will cut it down in November and then haul it off to D.C.

For more information about submitting New Mexico-themed ornaments to the USFS for the Capitol tree, click here.