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Oh! Tannenbaum a bit too big for Capitol Rotunda

Workers raise the Holiday Kids’ Tree in the Capitol rotunda in Olympia on November 29, 2016. (Jim Camden / The Spokesman-Review)
Workers raise the Holiday Kids’ Tree in the Capitol rotunda in Olympia on November 29, 2016. (Jim Camden / The Spokesman-Review)

OLYMPIA – It’s coming on Christmas, they’re cutting down trees, as Joni Mitchell once observed.

So like every year for the last 37, one cut conifer headed Tuesday for the Washington state Capitol Rotunda, where it will become the Association of Washington Business Holiday Kids’ Tree.

This year, the 20 or so state employees who hauled the 35-foot noble fir up the domed building’s north steps and up a flight of marble stairs to the rotunda faced something that anyone who’s ever hunted for a live tree in the Northwest learns:

Trees look smaller in their natural habitat than they do in your living room.

Who hasn’t cut what seems to be the perfect tree in the forest or farm and hauled it home only to find a foot or two at the top bends over and scrapes the ceiling or some of the boughs reach across the living room and onto the sofa?

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This fir, which was donated by Weyerhaueser, may have looked perfect in a clearing near Vail, Washington. Lying on its side in the rotunda, where it stretched up the stairs leading to the House of Representatives chamber, it was a bit much.

In a building with a 175-foot dome for a ceiling, the height wasn’t really an issue, even though there’s a giant chandelier hanging on a massive chain about 50 feet above the floor. But the girth of the tree supplied by its lowest limbs was taking up too much of the rotunda and the circumference of the trunk was too big for the massive stand. That required a call to the tool room for a chain saw – electric, to keep fumes from filling the building – to shave off some lower boughs and slice a couple of feet of trunk from the bottom.

Cut down to a shade under 30 feet, the top half of the tree was strung with lights, ornaments and a topping star because that’s easier and safer than trying to decorate those areas on tiptoe from the last step on a ladder. Then ropes were dropped from each of the fourth-floor railings on the building’s four open hallways and tied to the tree’s substantial trunk.

When everything was in place, state workers pulled hard on some ropes and gave others some slack to move the tree from horizontal to vertical and drop it into the stand with a resounding thud.

Volunteers will finish decorating the tree this week, with a lighting ceremony on Friday evening.

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