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Capitol Christmas tree to visit area

The "National Holiday Tree" that will stand in front of the U.S. capitol building in Washington D.C. will stop in North Bend next week on its trip east. This is the first time since 1970 when the National Forest Service began providing trees to the nation's capital that a tree has come from Washington state.

The tree - a 65-foot Pacific silver fir - is a gift from the entire state and was selected by Ted Bechtol, deputy superintendent of capitol grounds, from the Olympic National Forest on the Olympic Peninsula.

The tree will be at the North Bend train depot Nov. 14. It is the one of 23 stops around the state.

The tree will then be trucked cross country to Washington D.C., courtesy of National Van Lines, this year's primary event sponsor, and Fontaine Trailer, which provided a specially-designed expandable trailer to accommodate the unusual length of the tree.

The highlight of the capitol's Christmas season will be a simple, but dramatic lighting ceremony in which Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Dennis Hastert and the "2006 Tree Ornament Contest" winner will light the tree at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6, continuing a tradition begun in 1964. The tree will be lit every evening from Dec. 6 through Jan. 1 from sundown until 11 p.m.

Sixty-five smaller "companion" trees will be donated by Christmas tree farmers and communities from across Washington state and trucked to the capitol, also courtesy of National Van Lines. The trees will be distributed among House and Senate office buildings and other government offices around the capitol as gifts from the people of the Evergreen State.

The "Capitol Christmas Tree 2006" project is comprised of a series of events managed by the Olympic National Forest in partnership with Northwest Interpretive Association, a Seattle-based nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing public appreciation of the cultural history and natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

Several trees share the "National Christmas Tree" role.

National Christmas Tree - outside the White House:

First lady Grace Coolidge allowed the first cut Christmas tree (a balsam fir) to be displayed on the south lawn of the White House in 1923. Fifty years later, President Nixon responded to anti-cutting protests and planted a live tree for the ceremony in 1972. Since 1978, the same living Colorado blue spruce has served as the National Christmas. The tree is tended and displayed by the National Park Service with a lighting in early December.

National Christmas Tree - inside the White House:

The official White House Christmas Tree has been selected each and every year since 1966 from trees grown by members of the National Christmas Tree Association. The tree is prepared and presented for display in the White House Blue Room. The White House chief usher, superintendent of grounds and other staff select the tree. It is then decorated by the White House floral department and presented on Thanksgiving weekend.

National Holiday Tree - outside the capitol:

This National Holiday Tree has been a tradition at the U.S. capitol since 1963 when a live Douglas fir was planted on the west front lawn. After several live tree plantings died, the U.S. Forest Service in 1970 began providing the capitol with cut Christmas trees from national forests. The capitol architect's office oversees the tree's display and lighting service. That service and tree lighting is in early December.

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