LIBBY — Anyone interested in seeing the 79-foot-tall Englemann spruce that will serve as this year’s Capitol Christmas Tree will need to set aside the day of Nov. 7.
That’s the day the official celebration will begin on the Kootenai National Forest with an open house in the woods that surround the tree, which will come down the very next day to begin its long journey east.
Sandi Mason, the Kootenai National Forest’s Capitol Christmas Tree project leader, said the actual cutting of the tree will be closed to the public due to safety concerns.
“We’ll just have the sawyer, the truck, the crane and the people necessary to be there at the site on Nov. 8,” she said. “It’s just too tight of a location to allow the public in when the tree is cut.”
The tree was one of eight selected this summer by Kootenai National Forest employees and others as candidates to adorn the U.S. Capitol’s lawn during the holidays.
“It’s an absolutely beautiful tree,” Mason said.
When it’s erected in Washington, D.C., Mason expects it will be somewhere between 60 and 65 feet tall.
Plans call for allowing the public into the national forest site to take photographs and talk with the people involved in the tree cutting.
“The truck will be set up and the crane will be in place,” she said. “People can wander all over the area where the tree will be cut. There will be hot cocoa. Logistically, this is what will work the best. Even if we did allow people in during the cutting, they would have a hard time seeing it. Once people come to the open house, they will understand why we did it this way.”
If people want to travel from out of town, Mason said Libby will be the nearest community to where the tree is located.
The tree is scheduled to make an appearance in Libby on Tuesday, Nov. 14, from 9:30 to 10 a.m. at the high school. Gov. Steve Bullock plans on attending the event that marks the beginning of the journey of the “People’s Tree” across the state and country.
The brief ceremony will take place on the high school’s practice field. It will include performances by the Libby High School band and student choirs.
“We are honored that the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree is coming from the Kootenai National Forest and will visit Libby on its way to Washington, D.C.,” said Amber Pacheco-Holm, Libby Chamber president. “The Libby Chamber is proud to host this community event and looks forward to being a part of this gift to the nation and the joy it will bring to our own community this holiday.”
The tree will make 12 stops in Montana communities along the way, Mason said.
“We’re getting down the wire now,” Mason said. “People are getting genuinely excited. We are in the process of finalizing all the events in the different communities where the tree will stop. I know there are some people who are disappointed the tree won’t be coming to their town. Maybe they could take a nice field trip and go see it in one of the places it does stop.”