With the help of many transportation workers, the Capitol Christmas Tree, an 84-foot white fir, has arrived at the U.S. Capitol Building.
This year’s giant tree made its way across the country in late October, beginning in the Mad River Ranger District of the Six Rivers National Forest in California. Then, System Transport began trucking the tree across the United States as the official designated carrier for the Capitol Christmas Tree.
The 84-foot tree is one of the largest firs ever chosen for the event and was transported by a Next Generation Kenworth Truck Co. T680. This is the eighth year in a row a Kenworth big rig has hauled the capitol’s special tree.
“It’s been quite an honor for us to be a part of this,” said Kenworth’s director of marketing, Genevieve Bekkerus. “It’s something that we definitely look forward to every year.”
Scheduling and preparation for this tree-hauling typically begins about a year before the start of its trek, and a new location from which a tree is selected is chosen every year. The Capitol Christmas Tree tradition has lasted for 51 years now as a collaboration between the United States Forest Service and its partners. Of course, the tree has become affectionately known as the “People’s Tree.”
“This project would not be possible without partners and without partnerships,” said Choose Outdoors director of communications and sponsorships, Jodi Massey. “It’s a Forest Service project, but really, truly where the magic happens is [in] partnerships, and in particular, [with] those in the trucking industry that help us bring this project to life every year.” Choose Outdoors works closely with the Forest Service and its partnership initiatives.
Two teams stepped up to the plate to get this tree to Washington, and System Transport made sure six different drivers were available to handle each necessary segment of the journey. One such driver included Jeremy Bellinger, who has driven 2.5 million miles with System Transport over the last 21 years. When he heard his company would be hauling the tree, he called his supervisor right away to get involved.
Still, transporting this holiday cheer is a whole different ball game for most truckers, and this particular trip included 25 separate stops for the people within both rural regions and at large events to catch a glimpse of the tree–especially around the state of California where the tree originated.
“A lot of [the areas we stopped in] were small communities,” said one of the Capitol Tree’s drivers, Bill Brunk. “It was really cool to see the small communities come out–they were really excited about the tree.”
One particular stop for the giant tree was in Chillicothe, Ohio, the home of the Kenworth plant where the tree-hauling truck was manufactured.
“The folks there, at the Chillicothe plant, were really, really impressed with the event,” said Bekkerus. “They were really happy to see their project on the road. There’s so much passion and so much pride that goes into every build.”
An especially heartwarming stop for the tree was at the CoxHealth Dee Ann White Women and Children’s Hospital, added System Transport’s Bellinger.
“[At] the children’s hospital in Springfield, Missouri, we backed up in front of the hospital and the kids were coming out to the windows,” he recalled. “They were happy to see the truck.”
Each year’s Capitol Christmas Tree has a specific theme–this year’s is “Six Rivers, Many Peoples, One Tree,” in reference to the Six Rivers National Forest from which the tree was chosen. The tree’s public display also includes a banner for visitors to sign their names as they learn about the tree’s trip across the U.S.
“We brought a small piece of a California national forest that’s famous for its redwoods, famous for its sequoias,” said U.S. Forest Service spokesperson, Samantha Reho. “And we brought it to each community that we went to.”
The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree will be lit at a ceremony on the building’s West Lawn tomorrow, December 1st.
As for the truckers who worked those long hours to make sure the tree reached its final destination?
“They’re kind of our Santas,” said Reho.