Capitol Christmas Tree takes New Mexico tour

Blue spruce from near Red River to stop in Taos, Enchanted Circle today

By Cindy Brown
For The Taos News
Posted 11/7/19

Hundreds of New Mexicans and visitors gathered near Red River on Wednesday morning (Nov. 6) to watch the blessing and harvest of a 60-foot-tall blue spruce. This special tree was chosen from all of the trees in the Carson National Forest to go to Washington, D.C., where it will be featured on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol as the People's Christmas Tree.

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Capitol Christmas Tree takes New Mexico tour

Blue spruce from near Red River to stop in Taos, Enchanted Circle today

Posted

Hundreds of New Mexicans and visitors gathered near Red River on Wednesday morning (Nov. 6) to watch the blessing and harvest of a 60-foot-tall blue spruce. This special tree was chosen from all of the trees in the Carson National Forest to go to Washington, D.C., where it will be featured on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol as the People's Christmas Tree.

On this cold morning, the tree stood in a clearing under the shadow of a snow-covered hillside. As members of the public, representatives of the Carson National Forest and nearby towns gathered, the sun began to rise over the hill to illuminate the tree.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham welcomed the crowd that now numbered in the hundreds. "We are so proud of New Mexico's history and beauty," she said. "New Mexicans know how beautiful and amazing New Mexico is - how we celebrate the outdoors every single day. Not only is this tree a source of incredible pride for New Mexico and this community, but also it is a beacon of light, inspiration, hope and magic for the holiday season to everyone in our nation's capital."

Acknowledging the hundreds of people who helped locate, harvest and decorate the tree, Grisham observed that it would stand as a majestic reminder of what can be accomplished when people set aside differences to come together and overcome obstacles in order to create something beautiful.

Respect for the forest

After Grisham and other speakers concluded, an elder from the Picuris Pueblo and members of the tribal council offered a blessing for the tree in hopes that the forest and all its trees would continue to flourish. The crowd stood silently as the small group approached the tree and the elder placed his hand upon it in blessing.

Mark Gallegos, mayor of Questa and chairman of the Taos County Commission, grew up in the family logging business. He was selected to cut the tree with the assistance of Eddie Romero. The massive spruce, which measured almost two feet across, was supported with sturdy straps and attached to a crane overhead as the two worked. As they finished, the tree broke free of the stump to cheers from the crowd. Lifted by the crane, it rose almost magically into the air, while the crowd looked on in awe.

Young Malia Ranspot was visiting from Albuquerque to witness the historic event. She pointed out that the tree was so perfectly full and deeply green. With her school, the Albuquerque Sign Language Academy, she had been part of making more than 11,000 ornaments that will go with the tree to Washington, D.C., to decorate the People's Tree, numerous other smaller trees and the offices of Congressional representatives.

Tree tour

After the tree was cut, the Carson tree team loaded it onto a trailer. Its first stop was the Red River Conference Center. More than 100 kids, their parents and teachers waited eagerly out in front of the center.

At last, a lead car with flashing lights and two Red River marshals on horseback were seen rounding the corner. Santa Claus and Smokey Bear riding in a vintage car followed and then the tree - enormous, magnificent and decorated with red and yellow ribbons - came into sight, resting on a long flatbed trailer. The cab of the truck that pulled it was brilliantly painted with scenes from New Mexico and decorated with chile ristras. Across the side, it read "From Land of Enchantment to Enchanting the Nation."

There were cheers of delight from the children who were excited to see the tree and have a chance to talk to Santa and Smokey. A celebration followed that included holiday carols and the singing of happy birthday for Smokey's 75th birthday led by students from Red River Valley Charter School.

Now the tree will begin its 1,500 mile cross-country trip, stopping in 25 communities along the way. The first stop will be Monday (Nov. 11) at Eagle Rock Lake, along State Road 38 near Questa. The tree will reach Civic Plaza Drive in Taos between 5 and 6 p.m. Monday. A real time tracker will follow the tree's progress across the country at capitoltreetracker.com.

History

The tradition of the Capitol Christmas Tree, or "The People's Tree," began in 1964 when Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John W. McCormack (D-Massachusetts) placed a live Christmas tree on the Capitol lawn. This tree lived three years before it was lost to wind and root damage.

In 1970, the Capitol architect asked the U.S. Forest Service to provide a Christmas tree. Since then, a different national forest has been chosen each year to provide The People's Tree. This national forest also works with state forests to provide companion trees that are smaller Christmas trees for offices in Washington, D.C.

This is the third year that the tree has come from New Mexico.

To find out more visit uscapitolchristmastree.com.

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