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Live Tree Camera on the Capitol
grounds during the holidays

Tracking the "People’s Tree"

Online: The Route of Colorado’s 65-Foot Blue Spruce From the Shadow of Pike’s Peak to D.C.

By Hans Petersen

Americans were able to track the progress of the "People’s Tree on the Internet as the annual holiday convoy traveled 2000 miles from Colorado to the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

Along the way, there were 19 community celebrations throughout Colorado and along the Santa Fe Trail in Kansas and Missouri. The events culminate in a lighting ceremony in front of the U.S. Capitol at 5 p.m. on December 12.

The tree was cut and shrink-wrapped on November 20. Thousands of kids enjoyed the fun assignment of going online and finding out where it was day by day.

Beverly Carroll of the U.S. Forest Service is the national coordinator of the Capitol Holiday Tree. "This project makes me really enjoy the holiday season. It also puts me in the holiday spirit - whether I am ready or not."

How the Tree Is Selected

A tree's selection begins about five years in advance. A call goes out to
all of the Forest Service's regions, stations and forests requesting
nominations to bring the holiday tree to the nation's Capitol. There are letters of support from mayors, governors, and elected officials. After nominations are received, they go to the head of the agency, Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck, and he selects a reviewing panel to make the recommendation from the pool of applicants. Some of the deciding factors include historical significance, community and state support and the geographic location in relation to last year's tree. Finally, a selection is made.

This year it’s Colorado. The 75 year old Spruce comes from the shadow of 14,110 foot Pike’s Peak in Pike National Forest about 15 miles west of Colorado Springs. Companion trees from each of Colorado's 64 counties and thousands of handmade ornaments accompanied the Tree on the 2000-mile journey.

As Beverly explains, "The chosen state is responsible for 5,000 ornaments for the tree and middle school students normally make most of them. Sometimes the Governor's wife will chair this event and involve garden clubs and homemakers. Sometimes, the forests will sponsor a poster, essay or ornament contest with middle school students and the winner wins a trip to Washington, DC, to join in the lighting ceremony.

"Every year the holiday tree is different because each state has its own
unique natural resources and own creativity. Every state with its different
cultures and traditions make each year so exciting.

How Children Participate

"I always encourage state organizers to have children be a part of the celebration. This time of year is for them and if they can raise funds to come to participate in DC, it really makes the whole event even more memorable. From tours, to singing at the Forest Service afternoon reception, to even singing at the
lighting ceremony, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity if children can participate."

This year children from all 50 states participated in the Holiday Tree program by following the route of the tree on their home computers where they also learned about the tree and the tradition.

The "People’s Tree" was involved in many holiday parades all across the country along its route. These plans are made many months in advance and a lot of towns will change events just to have the holiday tree with its escorts participate in the parade. The tree truck carries sign boards that the citizens across the state can sign to make them a part of this special event. The tree usually stops and visits elementary schools for students to come outside and sign the boards.


It’s a big tree and a big project. Accordingly, things don’t always happen as planned. Although she diplomatically refuses to mention the origin of the tree, Beverly has heard stories about a tree that once arrived at the Capitol with all of its needles fallen off. The Architect of the Capitol had to glue branches back on the tree. She quickly adds that better techniques have been developed since then to keep the tree from getting too dry on very long trips.

Last year -- for the first time in the history of the tree - the tree rode in on Amtrak. (It usually arrives by truck.) The tree was from Wisconsin and they developed a cab to support the tree and the caravan stopped at rail stations to have its celebrations. It arrived at Union Station with much fanfare and then was attached to a truck for the traditional arrival at the Capitol.

This year, as usual, most national media will cover the celebration and will be at
the Capitol for the tree's arrival. The celebration is scheduled Dec. 13 at 5 p.m.

The Capitol Holiday Tree program this year is made possible through the joint efforts of the US Forest Service (USFS), the Colorado Rural Development Council (CRDC), the Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS), the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW), the Colorado Congressional delegation and many excellent partners.

"The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now." - -Anonymous

For More Information

Contact Beverly Carroll at the Forest Service. Her e-mail is

About the Author

Hans Petersen is a writer/editor at the Health Care Financing Administration in Washington D.C. Currently writing for AccessAmerica E-Gov E-Zine, he can be reached at

December 2000



The Holiday Tree
Pike’s Peak Webpage (Including PikesPeakcam)
The U.S. Forest Service



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