(11/26/12) - A gift to the nation. That's how those responsible for bringing this year's Capitol Christmas Tree to Washington, D.C. are describing the evergreen.
The 73-foot-tall, 74-year-old Engelmann spruce arrived in our nation's capital Monday where it will serve as the 2012 Capitol Christmas Tree – The People's Tree.
"It's been quite an honor," said Scott Fitzwilliams, supervisor of the White River National Forest in Meeker, Colorado where this year's tree was harvested.
It was chopped down Nov. 2, wrapped up on flatbed truck, and driven on a 5,500-mile tour across 28 cities in 19 states.
"In a lot of ways, in some of the towns, it was very similar to the Olympic Torch where people wanted to look at it. It was very celebratory," Fitzwilliams said.
That mood was echoed at the Capitol as Santa and Mrs. Claus accompanied the tree to the West Lawn. They were greeted by a sea of news cameras and admirers.
"I've lived here my whole life, and I've never seen them put the tree up. So it's really exciting, it's beautiful, it's huge," said Jodi Duke of Virginia.
But for Fitzwilliams, this whole cross-country journey has been about more than just showing off the tree.
"For us, it's the message of conservation and the importance of National Forests to America's strength and the greatness of this country," Fitzwilliams said.
House Speaker John Boehner will flip the switch, officially lighting the 2012 Capitol Christmas Tree on Dec. 4. The tree will be decorated with 3,000 ornaments made by Coloradans. This year's theme is "Celebrating the Great Outdoors."
ABC12 Main Station