This year's tree hails from Virginia's George Washington National Forest
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service today proudly presented the annual "Peoples' Tree" to the nation, which will grace the lawn of the U.S. Capitol throughout the holiday season. The tree is from the George Washington National Forest--the first time the holiday tree has come from Virginia.
"The USDA The Forest Service is once again delighted to give the holiday tree that graces the lawn of the nation's Capitol from one of our national forests," said Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman, who will make remarks at the tree lighting ceremony on Capitol Hill. "Thousands of people have already viewed this tree on its journey from Highland County, Va, to Washington, a 17-day trek that included stops in 33 communities. Thousands more will now have the opportunity to see it here on the Capitol lawn, as they come here to celebrate the joys of the holiday season. This year, Virginia's George Washington National Forest is honored to carry on the proud tradition."
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Dennis Hastert is scheduled to light the holiday tree this evening in a ceremony on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol. Assisting the Speaker in throwing the switch will be 7-year-old Blayne Braden, a first grader from Highland County Elementary School in Monterey, Va., who won the trip to Washington for the lighting ceremony by participating in an ornament contest. U.S. Senators John Warner and George Allen and U.S. Congressman Bob Goodlatte, whose district the tree hails from, are also scheduled to participate.
U.S. Architect of the Capitol, Alan Hantman, selected the magnificent 65-foot red spruce on the Warm Springs Ranger District of the George Washington National Forest in Highland County in July. It was felled in early November, tightly bundled with a water system attached, placed on a trailer, and encased in shrink-wrap to protect it during its trek through 33 Virginia communities to Washington, D.C.
School children and citizens across Virginia made nearly 5,000 ornaments to decorate the tree. The U.S. Capitol Historical Society also presented its 2004 ornament for the Holiday Tree (http://www.uschs.org/).
The custom of placing the nation's holiday tree on the front lawn of the U.S. Capitol dates back to 1964. Since 1970, the tree has come from a national forest. The tree will be lit every evening through December 27 from sundown until 11 p.m.