CASS LAKE, Minn. – Paul Bunyan on his best day never had a moment like Jim Scheff.

On Wednesday, Scheff wielded the chainsaw that cut down the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree in Minnesota’s Chippewa National Forest.

Hundreds of onlookers cheered as the 88-foot white spruce was lifted, then lowered gently by a pair of cranes, onto a specially designed semi trailer.

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“Something we’ll never see again,” said Bob Lanning, who drove an hour from Grand Rapids to watch. “All decorated it will be beautiful,” added Barb Lanning, who sat in a lawn chair next to her husband.

As Minnesota Logger of the Year, Scheff was invited to do the cutting. He quickly responded, “Well sure I will,” delighting his mother who watched proudly from her wheel chair just behind the yellow tape.

“He did wonderful, absolutely wonderful,” Susy Scheff said.

Hundreds of others watched with her, including children from area elementary schools and Native Americans from the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.

LeRoy Staples Fairbanks, a member of the tribal council, was a ten-year-old boy in 1992 when he traveled with the last Christmas tree Minnesota sent to the U.S. Capitol.

Now he’s helping raise the money to send other children from his community for the tree lighting in Washington D.C. “That was the first time I traveled out of state. It will be the same wonderful experience for a lot of these kids,” he said.

On Thursday the tree will travel to the field house at Bemidji State University, where student volunteers will spend three to four days helping tie up the tree’s branches for travel.

The tree will then embark on a 28-city tour on its trip to Washington. The date of the Capitol tree lighting has yet to be announced.


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