KALISPELL - The 53rd U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree has reached its destination.
It began its two-week journey to our nation's Capitol from the Kootenai National Forest following its harvesting 45 miles north of Libby.
The arrival of the nearly 80-foot-tall Engelmann Spruce was welcomed on Monday by the Architect of the Capitol.
"Thank you for joining us as I accept the 2017 Capitol Christmas tree on behalf of the United States Congress," said Stephen T. Ayers. "This year's tree comes from Big Sky country - the great state of Montana."Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers. "This year's tree comes from Big Sky country - the great state of Montana."
The tree traveled more than 3,000 miles to its destination, making stops in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri and Kentucky where thousands gathered to take part in its annual journey.
"This tree has been on quite a journey. I think if you look at the truck the inscription on the cab says Big Sky, Big Tree and Big Journey. That says it all. More than 3,000 miles, multiple stops along the way," Ayers said.
Many people are responsible for getting this beautiful and enormous tree to the West Front of the Capitol and we truly appreciate their efforts to help bring the holiday spirit to Washington, DC. We have been planning for this tree's arrival for many months." Ayers continued.
The tree will be lit in an outdoor ceremony on Dec. 6 by 11-year-old Ridley Brandmayr of Bozeman. More than 3,000 ornaments collected across Montana will be hung on the tree.
"Lighting the Capitol Christmas tree on the West Front Lawn has been a tradition since 1964. And I hope you will join Speaker Ryan, members of the Montana delegation and myself on Wednesday when we will continue this time-honored tradition," said Ayers.
The tree will be topped with a five-foot-tall copper star that also comes from the Treasure State and features a representation of Montana’s state flower, the Bitterroot. The star is made from copper as a nod to the rich copper mining tradition of Butte.
The tree was hauled in a specially designed flatbed trailer by Billings, Montana-based company Whitewood Transport.
The tradition of the Capitol Christmas Tree began in 1964 when Speaker of the House of Representatives John W. McCormack placed a live Christmas tree on the Capitol lawn. The tree lived three years before succumbing to wind and root damage.