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Capitol Tree About to Embark on Journey

The Capitol Holiday Tree will make 33 stops along its journey from George Washington National Forest in Virginia to the West Front of the Capitol.

The Architect of the Capitol’s Landscape Architect, Matthew Evans, chose the red spruce in early July. The tree is 65 feet tall, according to the AOC. The Forest Service reports the tree is 70 feet tall.

“This is a heart-stirring project,” Virginia’s Attorney General Jerry Kilgore said in a press release. Kilgore is the honorary chairman of the 2004 Capitol Holiday Tree Project. “In addition to being a gift to the nation from the citizens of Virginia, it will provide an excellent opportunity to highlight the commonwealth of Virginia, our history and our beautiful natural resources.”

The tree was cut down Thursday. A helicopter took it to the sendoff ceremony site at the Highland County Fairground. There will be speakers, dancers and singers at the Nov. 13 sendoff.

After the tree is sent off, it will be driven around the commonwealth on a flatbed trailer. Great Dane and Camrett Logistics donated the 48-foot extendible flatbed. The five drivers, who will drive more than 2,600 miles around Virginia, have donated their time.

The tree will visit one to three communities every day from Nov. 14 to 28. No stops are planned for Thanksgiving Day. It will spend each night at its last stop of the day.

The tree stays in each community for about two hours. The communities have planned their own Christmas celebrations and the doors to the truck will be opened so everyone can see the tree, said Donna Wilson, the information officer for the project.

The tree will arrive at 10 a.m. Nov. 29 in Washington, D.C..

Upon arriving in the District, a crane will secure the tree in the ground. It then takes several days to decorate the tree with ornaments and more than 10,000 lights, according to AOC spokeswoman Eva Malecki. Virginia provided almost 5,000 ornaments made by school children for the Capitol tree, Wilson said.

The ornaments reflect the theme: “From Virginia — Birthplace of Presidents.”

The lighting ceremony is at 5 p.m Dec. 9 on the West Front of the Capitol. Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) will flip the switch to light the tree with the help of a child from Virginia.

The tree will be lit from nightfall to midnight everyday from Dec. 9 through the first weekend of the new year, Malecki said.

NASCAR driver and Virginia native Ward Burton is the celebrity chairman for the Capitol tree project. On Wednesday, Burton will select a child and a teacher to win a trip to the lighting ceremony. The drawing consists of children who made an ornament and teachers who supervised the making of ornaments.

Virginia residents will provide all of the ornaments for the main tree and the 70 smaller companion trees that will be placed in government offices around the District. Tree farmers from Virginia donated the companion trees. Ornaments for the main tree are between 9 and 12 inches tall. Ornaments for the companion trees are between 5 and 8 inches tall.

The entire project, which was projected to cost $1 million, has been completely funded by donations and coordinated by volunteers, according to the project’s Web site.

“It’s major amounts of volunteers, especially the communities themselves have a lot of volunteers,” Wilson said.

Capitol Holiday Tree merchandise is for sale on the project’s Web site, DesignLab, the producers of the “Virginia is for Lovers” merchandise, created the items.

On Nov. 28, the tree will be in Manassas at 11 a.m., Alexandria at 2:10 p.m. and Vienna at 5 p.m.

The U.S. Forest Service has provided the Capitol Holiday Tree every year since 1970, according to the AOC Web site. This is the first time the tree has come from Virginia. Last year’s tree came from Boise, Idaho.

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