The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree on Monday completed its journey from McCall’s Little Ski Hill all the way to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
Idaho politicians were among the many who shared photos and videos of the 84-year-old tree on social media.
The tree, an Engelmann spruce cut from Idaho’s Payette National Forest, made dozens of stops across the nation (including several in Idaho) before arriving at the White House Monday morning.
Twin Falls trucker Gary Amoth towed the tree. Monday, he drove into Washington, D.C., in the dark and got to see the nation’s capital for the first time as day broke.
“It’s awe-inspiring,” he said. “If you’ve never been here, as I’ve not, it’s pretty awesome.”
The 84-year-old Engelmann spruce stood 80 feet tall after a crane hoisted it in place on the lawn of the Capitol, where it will be decorated with LED lights and 6,000 ornaments made from recycled materials by Idaho schoolchildren.
A tree-lighting ceremony will take place Dec. 6, when a Boise fifth-grader will join U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo and House Speaker Paul Ryan to push the button that sets the tree aglow. The student, Isabella Gerard, wrote a poem entitled “Pristine Idaho Mountains” that earned her the honor.
During a brief welcoming ceremony Monday, Stephen Ayers, architect of the Capitol, noted that the tree came from “the great state of Idaho.” He thanked members of the Idaho congressional delegation, none of whom attended.
The tree’s journey attracted tens of thousands of spectators along the way. The tree was accompanied by two law enforcement vehicles, with officers stopping along the way to block traffic to allow the truck to pass through, and one Forest Service vehicle.
“I can’t believe we’re finally here,” said Keith Lannom, supervisor of the Payette National Forest, who joined the group in Nashville, Tennessee, to make the trip into Washington.
Lannom said one of the biggest challenges during the cross-country trek was just keeping the tree watered.
“The tree was drinking about 20 gallons of water every day,” he said.
The trip got a rocky start earlier this month, when an Idaho State Police trooper who was leading a police escort of the tree was hit head-on on Idaho 55. Trooper Brandalyn Crapo, an extended family member of Sen. Crapo, was hospitalized with minor injuries and has since been released.