The Capitol Christmas tree has been cut and begun its journey in The Capitol Christmas Tree Tour 2011, and the first stop for the Capitol Christmas tree was Sonora, Calif. The Capitol Christmas Tree for Washington this year came from a secret location in the Stanislaus Forest of California and a better looking tree could not have been found. The tree chosen is a 65-foot Sierra White Fir with perfect symmetry and was cut this morning sometime after 9:30 a.m. The tree was not allowed to simply fall to the ground, as it was cut but was instead held up by a pair of cranes and then lifted onto a trailer with a custom built cradle to support the tree.
The cradle used keeps the tree from bruising or breaking any limbs on the journey across the nation to its final resting spot in Washington. The Capitol Christmas Tree is also known as the The People’s Christmas Tree and is not to be confused with the National Christmas Tree since the National Tree is one which is planted near the White House and lit by the President and First Lady each year. The crowd which turned out locally at the first stop was large for such a small town and such cold weather. There were 400-500 people who came out to line the main street through town and while some left as soon as the tree went by, many of them followed the tree to the county fairgrounds to get a look at the tree up close after the parade.
The process of cutting the tree was quite a chore to perform without marring the trunk or the branches and in the video of the tree cutting can be heard a group of Tribal Elders from the local Me-Wuk tribe blessing the tree.
The local Me-Wuk tribe through their Black Oak Casino is also one of the a major sponsors of the journey for the tree along with a large number of companies who have funded the process from start to finish. The only federal money spent on the process has been the time and effort of the US Forest Service employees who worked on the project during the selection and harvesting of the tree. The goal was to find $300,000 in donations to fully fund the process, and although much of it has been raised, there is still a need for further donations.
The cranes, plus the truck to haul the tree, and the fuel to get to Washington have all found sponsors so far and much of the cash donations needed have been received to pay the cost of sending the tree on its way. While waiting for the tree to arrive in Sonora this afternoon, I took the opportunity to ask a few of the people along the parade route why they were there to see the tree arrive. One gentleman with four children, Raleigh, offered that “It’s a chance to spend time with the family and create family memories.”
Jackie and John, a couple of locals who included a docent from Railtown 1897, a nearby State park suggested it was an opportunity to see “a piece of our area traveling to Washington, D.C., to represent our State and forest.”
One young lady with her parents simply wanted to see the tree up close and personal and to be involved in what may be “the only chance she has to see a Capitol Christmas Tree before it sits in Washington.”
Of all the locals and travelers who came to town for the parade of the tree, the only untoward non-incident were three individuals of the “Atheist Riot Now” group who oddly enough at the time when the tree passed by chose to remain silent and merely watched it go by. All the rest of the attendees seemed to be there only for the enjoyment of seeing the tree. Oddly enough both Santa Claus and a Sasquatch were in attendance, first in the parade and then at the fairgrounds after the parade. The Stanislaus Sasquatch who chose to grace the affair with his presence was a great deal more friendly and outgoing than others which have been reported elsewhere in the news.
In talking to some of the members of the crowd, I found that some had come from as far as two hours away despite the fact that the tree will go through their own city in the days to come. For a complete list of the itinerary of the People’s Tree’s trip across the country look here. After the tree arrives in Washington, it will be trimmed with more than 5,000 ornaments provided by the people of California, the ornaments were selected through a request for handcrafted pieces from schools, civic and adult groups. One local 7-year-old, Johnny Crawford won the chance to go to Washington to light the Capitol Christmas Tree with Speaker John Boehner.
The drive from the Stanislaus Forest where the tree came from to Washington is really more than just a simple transport job and getting the tree from Point A to Point B this year. The Forest Service chose to make the journey of the People’s Tree even more meaningful as the tree makes its way east from California. Along with the People’s Tree this year will be a truck filled with canned goods and destined for a food bank in Gallup, N.M., which the tree will enter on November 16. Gallup was chosen as the city with a extreme need due to the depressed economy as a recipient of the canned food drive from the people of California. Because the tree has begun its journey in Sonora, the local community action agency, the Amador Tuolumne Community Action Agency took the lead in securing donations from the local community to start the process. And although the tree will make its way through twelve more towns and cities in California before it gets to Arizona and then on to Gallup, any person with a desire to help can do so by contacting Shandy Bearden of the US Forest Service at [email protected]