Oh, Christmas tree! – Republican Eagle
Red Wing and the St. James Hotel can’t boast “George Washington slept here,” but they soon will be able to say the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree spent the night.
The tree from the Chippewa National Forest in northern Minnesota will arrive Nov. 7. The city will be one of about 20 stops an entourage makes en route to Capitol Hill.
Technically, the tree will spend the night on the street; the fir or pine will stay in an encased semi-trailer parked outside the hotel. Plenty of activities and dignitaries will accompany the tree’s arrival at about 5 p.m. and its departure the next morning.
“We were one of the first to get on board,” hotel general manager Mike McKay reminded a local planning committee Thursday. Distinctive ornaments, commemoratives, food and music are planned to make the Red Wing stop special.
People will be invited to sign a large banner that will go with the tree to Washington, D.C., Nov. 20.
“At the end of the day, that banner will be covered tip to tail,” Bruce Ward of Choose Outdoors told the local committee. He is the Capitol Christmas tree coordinator.
The Chippewa National Forest staff had to identify a tree 60 to 80 feet tall with a full pyramid-like shape, healthy branches and a straight trunk. Staff from the Capitol and U.S. Forest Service then chose this year’s tree — plus a back-up just in case.
To help protect the selected trees from harm, their location won’t be disclosed until closer to the cutting ceremony, set for Oct. 29.
From there, the tree will travel through several northern communities including Bemidji and Duluth before going to Rochester and then coming to Red Wing, said Ward and Jodi Petrich, also of Choose Outdoors.
U.S. House Speaker John McCormack started the Capitol Christmas tree tradition in 1964. Since 1970, the tree has come from a national forest and adorned the Capitol’s west lawn.
In addition to the main tree, a semi-truck and trailer will carry dozens of smaller “companion” trees that will grace capital buildings. Two of these trees will stay in the St. James Hotel throughout the holiday season.