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.