1000 x 90

“From the Mountains to the Sea:” U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Will Stop in the High Country Enroute to D.C.

By Sherrie Norris

The High Country has long been known by many as the place to find “the perfect Christmas Tree” and has, on many occasions, provided just that for the White House and other notable sites around the country. For the U.S. Capitol, the main Christmas Tree has primarily been chosen from a national forest. 

This year’s capitol tree — a beautiful red spruce, spiraling 78 feet high and affectionately referred to as ‘Ruby’ — was selected earlier this year from the N.C. National Forest and harvested on Wednesday, Nov. 2.

However, smaller companion trees, which decorate offices inside the U.S. Capitol building and other sites throughout Washington, are being provided by an Avery County tree farm and will accompany the Capitol tree to Washington. And, all will be coming through the High Country next week. 

It is the third time a capitol tree has come from the Pisgah National Forest in the southwestern part of our state. The last N.C. trees going to the U.S. Capitol, both from the Pisgah Forest, included a 50-ft. Fraser fir in 1998, and a 41-ft. Fraser fir in 1974.

On  August 22, the National Forests in North Carolina and nonprofit partner, Choose Outdoors —along with presenting sponsor, 84 Lumber — announced that the  2022 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree had been chosen from the Pisgah National Forest and would embark upon a tour on its way to the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol building in early November.

The tour will kick off on Saturday, Nov. 5, with a Harvest Celebration at the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center, and over the course of two weeks, make 14 stops in local communities across North Carolina, plus two stops in Virginia.

Its stops in the High Country area will include a public event  

on Tuesday, Nov. 8, from  9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. at the Avery County Cooperative Extension Center in Newland. The Avery County High marching band, ROTC and drama club will be performing. Everyone is invited to attend.
Later in the afternoon, the tree is expected to be in Boone for a school-related event,  which will not be open to the public.

(See below for complete tree tour schedule.)

The tree is being transported to Washington DC on a Kenworth T680 Next Generation hauler by Hardy Brothers Trucking based in  Siloam, N.C.; its husband-and-wife team, Harold “Ed” Kingdon Jr. and Deborah Z. Kingdon, have been  given the honor as drivers for the historic delivery.

The truck will be “adorned” with a newly installed special graphics design and the trucking company’s logo, along with this year’s theme “From the Mountains to the Sea,” and “From the National Forests in North Carolina,” prominently displayed. The design also features the U.S. Capitol Building, U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, and a background of the sunset overlooking the Pisgah National Forest in the Appalachian Mountains. The 2022 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree logo is displayed on the roof. 

Jennifer Greene, Executive Director of the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association, whose office is in Boone,  will be attending the kick-off event in Fletcher on Saturday, as well as the High Country events, all of which she greatly anticipates.

Greene has been helping coordinate the local portion of the tour, along with The Boone Area Chamber of Commerce and Watauga County Schools. 

“Even though we partner with the U.S. Capitol on Christmas tree projects, we’re not typically involved in the actual (capitol tree) selection, since it comes from a national park area,” Greene said. “But, we’re always excited that it is a real tree, and especially this year, that it’s coming from North Carolina.” 

Additionally, Greene said those “companion trees” have local significance, as they are grown by Mountain Top Fraser Fir of Newland, owned by Larry Smith, who has been in the spotlight since his Fraser Fir was chosen for the White for House in 2018.

 “84 Lumber Company is the sponsor of the event this year,” Greene said, “and 84 is the number of Fraser Firs that will be loaded in Newland to accompany the Capitol Tree in Washington. Twenty-five of them, including one 25-ft. tree, will be displayed inside the U.S. Capitol building, with the remainder going to Andrews Air Force Base.”

Separately, but at the same time, Greene said, Smith is once again donating 56 Fraser Firs to Ellipse, (sometimes referred to as the President’s Park South) where the National Christmas Tree is displayed near the White House.

Smith’s 56 trees, which will light up the Pathway to Peace at President’s Park, will be delivered by the N.C. Dept. Of Agriculture.

More Opportunities to see the U.S. Capitol Tree

Local communities will welcome the U.S. Capitol Tree at various locales on its way to Washington. Viewers will have a chance to sign the banners on the truck’s sides, learn more about their national forests, shop for U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree merchandise and more. 

Festivities are free and (most) are open to the public. 

In addition to the local events, the tour includes:

  • Saturday, Nov. 5
    3:00­ – 5:00 p.m. Western North Carolina Agricultural Center (9237, 761 Boylston Hwy, Fletcher)
  • Sunday, Nov. 6
    1:00 – 3:00 p.m. Cherokee County Courthouse (75 Peachtree St, Murphy)
    6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Oconaluftee Island Park Event Site (181 Tsali Blvd, Cherokee)
  • Monday, Nov. 7
    12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Pisgah Forest Ranger Station & Visitor Center (1600 Pisgah Hwy, Pisgah Forest)
    5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Marion Main Street (Between Court Street and Fort Street, Marion)
  • Tuesday, Nov. 8 

         (Newland and Boone)  

        5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Downtown Newton (33 East A Street,            Newton, NC 28658)

  • Wednesday, Nov. 9
    10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Veteran’s Memorial Park (691 W. Lebanon St. Mount Airy)
    3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Troy Town Hall (315 N Main St, Troy)
  • Thursday, Nov. 10
    10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. North Carolina Zoo (4401 Zoo Pkwy, Asheboro)
  • Friday, Nov. 11
    1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. North Carolina Veteran’s Home (2150 Hull Rd, Kinston)
  • Saturday, Nov. 12
    1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Union Point Park (210 E Front St, New Bern)
  • Sunday, Nov. 13
    3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Fort Raleigh National Historic Site (1500 Fort Raleigh Road, Manteo)
  • Monday, Nov. 14
    5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Suffolk Visitors Center (524 North Main St, Suffolk, VA)
  • Wednesday, Nov. 16 
    84 Lumber, North Chesterfield, VA (Details to be announced)
  • Thursday, Nov. 17
    5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Joint Base Andrews (Base only)
  • Friday, Nov. 18
    Delivery to West Lawn, U.S. Capitol Building

Placement, decoration and all the final touches will follow, with lighting in later November.

History of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree

According to Architect of the Capitol website, records indicate that the Capitol’s first Christmas Tree was purchased in 1919. However, it was not until 1964 that a definite procedure was initiated and a tree-lighting ceremony established.

In 1964, House Speaker John W. McCormack suggested to J. George Stewart (eighth AOC), that a Christmas tree be placed on the U.S. Capitol grounds. A live 24-foot Douglas fir was purchased for $700 from Buddies Nurseries of Birdsboro, Pennsylvania, and was planted on the west front lawn. Each year through 1967 this same tree was decorated and a tree-lighting ceremony was held.

A combination of factors, including a 1967 wind storm, caused the tree to die in 1968; it was removed soon thereafter. The 1968 Christmas tree was made from two white pines from Finksburg, Maryland, and was 30 feet tall; the 1969 tree was a 40-foot white pine from Westminster, Maryland. The United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service has provided the trees since 1970.

Each summer, the host forest service staff nominates about a dozen potential capitol Christmas trees, which are carefully measured, photographed and mapped; the information is then shared with the AOC, the superintendent of which reviews when he visits each candidate tree to make the final selection.

The “ideal” tree for the capitol is 60 to 90 feet tall,  healthy with good growth and density, and be rich in color. It must be straight and perfectly conical in shape.

The tree is taken to the U.S. Capitol’s west front lawn, where it is lifted from the trailer by crane. Afterward, the AOC staff has about 10 days to secure and decorate the tree before the lighting ceremony with as many as 5,000 handmade ornaments, mostly made by school children throughout the tree’s home state. 

The Speaker of the House then marks the start of the holiday season with the annual lighting ceremony. The tree is subsequently lit by the AOC each evening throughout the season for everyone to enjoy.

Beginning November 5,this year’s U.S. Capitol Tree journey can be tracked in real-time online at capitoltreetracker.com, hosted by Spireon, Inc.

*Subject to change. Monitor the website at www.uscapitolchristmastree.com/calendar for updates.

Follow along online at www.uscapitolchristmastree.com and @uscapitolchristmastree on Facebook and Instagram.