BELGRADE - This year's U.S. Capitol Christmas tree was grown right here in Montana so it only makes sense that the tree's topper was made in its home state as well.
When Brad Brenteson, the owner of Split Mountain Metals in Belgrade, was approached by Washington Corporations to build a star, he never imagined it would soon top the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree in Washington D.C.
"Originally, it was just, 'Hey, could you build a big star for a Christmas tree?',” said Brenteson.
“They didn't really go into specific details, 'But we need it in a short amount of time.' And we said, 'Yeah, I think we could build something like that.' And the turnaround time was within our capabilities, so it wasn't until we got into the project and started seeing some designs and revisions of it that we realized what it was or that they told us what it was actually for," he said.
Taken from the Kootenai National Forest, this year’s Capitol Tree is a 79-foot Engelmann Spruce. It required a star grand enough to top it.
"We originally first started thinking on design size, we didn't really know how big would be appropriate on that size of tree, so it took a little bit of figuring to see what would be efficient to be 80 feet up in the air and still be visible," Brenteson said.
It took Brad and Split Mountain Metals 16 steel panels, 16 copper panels, and 1000 hours of manpower to make a five-foot-tall, eight-point star that weighs 80 pounds. And it was all made right here in Montana.
Montanans will pick up on some of the unique features of the star, like the copper used to represent Montana's mining history and the Bitterroot flower on the front.
From the ornaments to the tree's topper, this year’s Capitol Christmas tree will hold a special meaning to those in the Treasure State.
"I think it's really putting a good name out for Montana, just as far as the whole team on my end, the Washington Corporation, the trucking company, everybody's just really coming together to make this thing happen. It's a lot of work from a lot of people, it's a state-wide involved project and I feel lucky to be a part of it," Brenteson said.
Lighting for the star was done by Western Montana Lighting. Split Mountain Metals also designed the case the star will make its journey to Washington, D.C. in, and Image Source put some of the finishing touches and vinyl wrapping on the case.
This is the first time that the tree's star comes from the same state that supplies the tree. The star will be stopping in Butte on Monday at 600 Shield St. from 4-6 p.m.
Watch bonus footage of Split Mountain Metals at work: