SWEET HOME TO DC: The 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree journey continues

Students show off their signatures on a 2018 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree banner

Sweet Home to DC: The 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree journey

A Modern Day Adventure on the Historic Oregon Trail

Each year, a National Forest provides a Christmas Tree for display on the U.S. Capitol lawn in Washington D.C. This year’s tree is travelling from the Willamette National Forest’s Sweet Home Ranger District, in central Oregon. District Ranger Nikki Swanson is recording her notes from the journey for the Your Northwest Forests blog. To read the previous entries, visit: https://yournorthwestforests.org/category/capitol-christmas-tree/.

November 8th, 2018
Sweet Home, Ore.

Final preparations and some fun with Smokey Bear!

Tomorrow is the BIG day, the day the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree embarks on its epic journey.  All of the final preparations are underway and excitement is in the air.

The 10,000 ornaments were packaged, the banner thanking the sponsors was hung, and Smokey visited with EVERY kindergarten through 6th-grader in the Sweet Home School District.

Packaging 10,000 ornaments handmade by the people of Oregon was an adventure in itself. The ornaments are for the big tree as well as the eighty smaller trees that will decorate the offices of the Capitol Building.

The ornaments had to be organized, boxed, and labeled so that it would be easy to tell which were for the big tree and which were for the smaller trees. Next, all of the boxes were stacked in piles eight feet tall and four feet wide!

In a few weeks, a truck will come to pick up the boxes and transport the ornaments and the companion trees to D.C. Once there, we will hand deliver these special gifts from Oregon.

Another exciting thing that occurred today is the hanging of the GIANT banner on the side of the truck transporting the Capitol Christmas Tree.  The banner is eight feet tall and 70 feet long.

Smokey high-fives an Oregon grade-schooler during a school visit marikng the start of the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree tour.

Local students got a visit from Smokey Bear and the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree team Nov. 8, 2018. Children signed banners to accompany the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree from the Willamette National Forest, Sweet Home Ranger District, to Washington D.C., and the schools received seedling trees to plant on the school grounds. USDA Forest Service photo.

If you think about how hard it is to hang a picture on your wall at home and to get it perfect and straight, you will appreciate how difficult of a job this is to do.  Thanks to some tall ladders and some really amazing people, the banner thanking all of the sponsors and partners looks perfect and is ready for people to sign at the unveiling in Sweet Home on November 9th.

My hope is that so many people want to sign this giant postcard travelling 3,000 miles across the country, that there will be an ocean of names and well-wishes so dense that the color of the banner underneath will be hard to see.

My favorite part about today was getting to visit with all of the elementary children in the Sweet Home School District. I visited all five schools and had the opportunity to meet over 1,300 children. We talked about the tree and the journey thus far and the adventure yet to come.

The children also got to meet Smokey Bear and learn about how they can help take care of their forest by preventing wildfires and picking up any litter that they see.

When I showed them a photo of the tree that was chosen, there were collective “oooohs, and aaahs,” and they agreed that the Architect of the Capitol’s Office picked the VERY BEST one.

There was much clapping and exclamations of excitement when I showed them the photo of the Oregon 4th grader whose lovely poem won her the honor of actually lighting the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree in Washington D.C…. Brigitte Harrington.

Brigitte will be reading her winning poem at the Sweet Home celebration. I can’t wait to hear her recite it for all of us. I think the Sweet Home elementary students are as excited about that as I am!

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We concluded our visit by handing out an “Every Kid in the Park Pass” to every 4th grader. In addition to getting into all Federal Parks free, they get a free permit to harvest their own Christmas Tree from the National Forest. We left each school with two Douglas fir seedlings to plant on their school grounds.  When you cut a tree, plant a tree (or two).

Nikki Swanson
District Ranger, Sweet Home Ranger District
Willamette National Forest

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