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Technical Glitch Dampens Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting

The Capitol Christmas Tree was lit this evening amid pageantry, just as it has been every year since 1964.

But a technical glitch caused by rainy weather threatened to derail the festivities.

Shortly after illumination around 5 p.m., the tree — a 65-foot white fir from California’s Stanislaus National Forest — went dark. Several minutes later, it was back up and glowing.

“There was an electrical short with all the rain,” explained Eva Malecki, a spokeswoman for the Architect of the Capitol, who oversees the tree’s installation on the West Lawn. “Our crew worked very quickly to get the lights back on.”

Perhaps the small interruption was forecast by a joke Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told his special guest, on whom he bestowed the honor of flipping the switch on the tree’s lights.

“To help do the honors, California has sent one of its most prestigious citizens. Johnny Crawford isn’t just any 7-year-old … he’s also a Cub Scout,” Boehner said. “So I’m confident if something goes wrong, Johnny will know what to do.”

Boehner — accompanied by his wife, Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers, Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell and members of the California Congressional delegation — also had some somber words during the inaugural 2011 lighting of the “People’s Tree.”

“Christmas is not a distant historical event,” he said. “It is a spirit, always bringing us closer to each other and closer to the peace of which the angels sang.”

The tree will be lit from dusk to 11 p.m. each day through New Year’s Day.

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