November 7, 2013 in Washington Voices

Capitol Christmas Tree stops in Spokane on its way east

By The Spokesman-Review
Picture story: Capitol Christmas Tree visits Spokane
Jesse Tinsley photoBuy this photo

Sue Luppert, center, reaches to sign her name to the banner on the outside of the flatbed truck carrying the Capitol Christmas Tree in Spokane on Tuesday outside the INB Performing Arts Center.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Where is the tree?

You can follow the progress of the 2013 Capitol Christmas Tree at

2013 Capitol Christmas Tree fast facts

• 88-feet tall Engelmann spruce from the Newport Ranger District of the Colville National Forest

• Cut Nov. 1, fitted with a bladder on the base of the tree which holds 30-40 gallons of water

• It took three days to package the tree for shipping.

• Also known as the “People’s Tree,” it is a gift from the people of Washington state to the rest of the United States

• There are 80 companion trees, 6- to 20-feet tall, which will accompany the tree to the Capitol and will be placed in Congressional and federal offices.

• Thousands of ornaments will decorate the tree, made mostly by Washington students and other residents.

• Tree skirts were sewn by the Girl Scouts of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho, as well as students in the textile class at Kettle Falls High School.

• The tradition of the Capitol Christmas Tree began in 1964 when then-Speaker of the House John W. McCormack (D-Mass.) purchased a live Douglas fir.

• Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) will officiate at the lighting ceremony on the west lawn of the Capitol.

Source: 2013 Capitol Christmas Tree media packet

The 2013 Capitol Christmas Tree stopped in Spokane on Tuesday afternoon and was serenaded by 42 third-graders from the Central Valley School District.

“They did awesome,” said Aaron Dahlgren, one of the third-grade teachers at McDonald Elementary.

The event at the INB Performing Arts Center brought local dignitaries and Smokey Bear to welcome the tree before it travels to Washington, D.C.

The school was asked just last week if a choir could perform, and music teacher Jan Frank knew the third-graders had a repertoire of patriotic songs to entertain the crowd.

“The kids are really, really excited,” Frank said Monday. Since it’s a bit early for Christmas carols and Veterans Day is next week, the patriotic songs they sang fit the day.

“I know we’re going to sing ‘God Bless the USA,’ ‘The Pledge of Allegiance,’ and ‘I Love America,’ ” said Lily Knerr, 8.

It was the first time the students had traveled away from the school to perform. When they arrived at the event, they filed off the school bus and waved to their fans – many of their parents came out to hear them sing. One quick sound check and they were whisked off into the convention center to wait for the ceremony to begin.

Visitors were invited to sign the banner that hangs from the side of the trailer that carries the tree and peek through windows to view the top of the tree, which has already been decorated and hooked up with Christmas lights.

When asked what they know about the 2013 Capitol Christmas Tree, McDonald’s third-graders have heard a few things, but some weren’t quite sure of all the facts.

“The tree is 88-feet tall,” said Breanna Smith, 8.

“The tree actually comes from Colville (National Forest),” said Benny Barnett, 8.

They stepped up on risers during their performance, wearing red, white and blue smocks, knitted hats and gloves. They sang with enthusiasm and added a little choreography.

When they finished, each of them had a chance to view the tree through the window of the trailer. The tree left about 5 p.m. Tuesday, headed to its next destination.

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