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 9th, 2018
Sweet Home, Ore.
The adventure begins
The city of Sweet Home ROCKS! Today was the kickoff celebration for the tree tour and Sweet Home hosted the most AMAZING send off every in the history of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree.
I have only been to two other kick off celebrations (Idaho and Montana) and I am a little biased, but I can’t imagine anyone topping what Sweet Home did! There was an incredible parade, a wonderful list of speakers, a beautiful full-color, magazine-style program, and a concert by the country music group Cloverdayle.
The parade was incredible. Several thousand people came out to watch the lighted parade. The entire city of Sweet Home was decorated with Christmas lights and wreaths and painted windows. People came from near and far to see this historic event.
It’s only the second U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree to come from Oregon, and many of us may not get to see another.
It was fun to meet some of the people instrumental to the success of this project. Many a grade-schooler ran up and hugged me… this was actually my favorite part of the evening, that so many children were excited and proud that this tree came from their city, their state. My new title, as told to me by several of these wonderful young citizens, is “The Captain of the Tree”.
Another highlight was getting to meet a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Her organization hosted several ornament-making events, and made several of the incredible quilted tree skirts depicting the beauty of Oregon with so many colorful textures of fabric. I have never before seen such beautiful tree skirts.
The parade was so bright and awe-inspiring and there was so much joy in the air as lighted log trucks, and horses, and motorcycles, and even bagpipes made their way down Main Street.
Once the tree stopped at the end of the parade, a wave of people crowded around the truck, all eager to be among the first to sign the banner on the sides of the truck.
The banner proudly displays the names of more than sixty sponsors who made this project possible.
At each stop, we’re encouraging ALL of the people who see the truck in person to add their names to the banner wishing good will to the people of America, like a giant rolling Christmas card.
Another exciting part of the evening was when Senator Ron Wyden met with the Sweet Home Library to present them with books from the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.
The Sweet Home Library is doing a fun project linking all of the cities across the country that the tree is traveling through.
Each city is invited to join a book club of sorts.
Rose Peda the Sweet Home Library Director sent ‘gift boxes’ to 20+ Whistle Stop public library’s along the tree tour route, with the following note: “The Sweet Home Public Library invites you to celebrate the travels of the Capitol Christmas tree along the Oregon Trail. Join us in sharing the books “Apples to Oregon: Being the (Slightly) True Narrative of How a Brave Pioneer Father Brought Apples, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Grapes, and Cherries (and Children) Across the Plains” by Deborah Hopkinson and “Wagons Ho” by George Hallowell, and in eating the delicious apples from Oregon provided by Grandpa’s Farm. Children can track the travels of the tree with the Oregon Trail map provided by the National Forest Service.”
What a fun way to connect children across the entire country!
After the banner signing, the festivities moved into the gymnasium, which was decorated so beautifully for Christmas. There were several speakers, including the Mayor of Sweet Home and Senator Ron Wyden, who spoke about how proud they were to be sending this gift from Oregon to the people of the United States of America.
My favorite speaker was Brigitte Harrington! Brigette is the talented 4th grader whose poem was selected out of 1,200 entries by Governor Kate Brown to light the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree in Washington D.C.
Brigette read her poem, which is a rendition of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” that focuses on the beauty of the changing seasons in Oregon. It was truly a delight to hear her recite it. (You can download a PDF copy at this link, or scroll down to read the full text immediately following this journal entry).
The New Era newspaper created a beautiful, full-color magazine style program that was handed out during the evening events. The program contains the history of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree as well as information about OUR Oregon tree.
The party ended with wonderful music from the country music band Cloverdayle bringing Christmas cheer all the way from Nashville, Tennessee.
So many wonderful memories were made tonight. This will go down in my book as one of the most incredible events in my life. Watching the culmination of a year of planning become an event filled with joy and happiness and pride for this Community and our entire state. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings. With a send-off like this, the future looks bright.
District Ranger, Sweet Home Ranger District
Willamette National Forest
Here’s the winning entry in the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree essay contest. Brigette Heather Harrington based her essay on the poem “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Her entry was selected by Gov. Kate Brown from around 1,200 entries submitted by Oregon 4th graders; Harrington won a trip to Washington D.C. to light the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree, harvested from the Willamette National Forest.
‘Twas the month before Christmas, and all through my mind,
Swirled thoughts of my Oregon, all intertwined;
The four seasons how extraordinary, each one of a kind,
Left memories galore for my mind to rewind.
The winter how beautiful, the snow began to fall,
I quickly grabbed my mittens to make a chilly snowball.
The snowman we created, sat proudly in my yard,
He stayed there ‘till he melted, a snowy frosty guard.
The raindrops how they pattered, the wind gusts how they blew,
In Oregon this is common, it makes us special through and through;
So don’t be disappointed, for rain can bring such joy,
The puddles are for jumpin,’ they’re better than a toy!
In thinking of the springtime, birds began to chime,
The tulips and the daffodils, made for a colorful time.
It was time to plant my garden, the seeds went in the ground,
I watched each day as plants popped up, and roots became earthbound.
The roses oh so pretty, a painting of delight,
The picture of a rainbow, magical and bright.
A visit to the Oregon coast, is sure to bring a smile,
Watching waves and seagulls fly up high, my sandcastle took a while.
Flying kites their tails a’soarin,’ a fun sight to behold,
Especially nice upon the sand, with the ocean foamy and cold.
Hiking in the green lush forests, tall evergreens abound,
Watching wildlife, deer, and elk appear, animals all around.
Onto summer sunny days, the earth was in its glory,
Picking berries, apples, peaches and more, so sweet, like a fairytale story.
Kayaking on our rivers was great, it really was a thrill,
Paddling to and fro with dad, water rippling, peaceful and yet still.
Time for fall, it was really here, brilliant trees ablaze,
Leaves soon fell down one by one, my eyes just loved to gaze.
Finally into the pumpkin patch, oh which one should I choose,
A tall, a round, a skinny one, once carved it would amuse.
It’s time to cut our Christmas tree, we’ve got to find the right one,
Can’t wait to get it home inside, all decorated and done!
So as I close my eyes for sleep, my heart holds memories dear,
Thinking of my home, our state, my Oregon, how glad I’m here.
By Brigette Heather Harrington (4th grade, Oregon);
2018 Capitol Christmas Tree contest