This year’s U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, dubbed “An Idaho Mountain Gem” and cut from the Payette National Forest, is on display in front of the state Capitol today, along with booths, souvenirs, food trucks, the giant Idaho potato truck, selfie opportunities galore, and a chance for people to sign the giant banners adorning the truck carrying the newly cut 80-foot Engelmann spruce.
Speeches are scheduled to start at noon on the Capitol steps; the tree’s Capitol stop runs until 1 p.m.
Lt. Gov. Brad Little, who’d just climbed a ladder to sign the banner, noted that the tree was cut from Little Ski Hill in McCall. “My wife’s great-uncle was one of the first ski jumpers there,” he said. “I’m sure he’d run into this tree many times.”
Gov. Butch Otter, just returned from a trade mission to China, recalled the last time Idaho supplied the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, when he was serving in Congress in 2003; he watched as it was lit, after being decorated with thousands of ornaments made by Idaho kids. “It was right there on the front lawn to the Capitol, as you come in,” he said.
This year’s tree was cut Nov. 2 from the ski slope just west of McCall. And in a first, it was hand-cut with a traditional two-man cross-cut saw.
The tree’s huge circumference was then carefully squished into the giant truck trailer for its journey; a portion of its tip, already festooned with decorations, is visible at the back of the trailer through plexiglass.
The tree’s 4,000-mile trip to the nation’s Capitol will include visits to more than 25 communities along the way. It’s scheduled to head north and hit Moscow Nov. 10 and Coeur d’Alene Nov. 11, then be in Salmon Nov. 12, Idaho Falls and Twin Falls Nov. 13; Ogden, Utah, Nov. 15; and then a series of locations across the country before it arrives at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Nov. 27. The tree will be officially lit on the lawn of the Capitol on Dec. 6.