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.
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!”
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