This Christmas, the national tree which brightens the west lawn of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., will be a 60-foot tall Vermont balsam fir. The perfectly formed fir has been growing on Green Mountain National Forest land in the Windham County town of Somerset.
Seven years ago, this balsam and thirty others, ranging in height from 10 to 50 feet, were selected for this purpose, and the trees around them were thinned out so that the future Christmas trees would have full crowns from their tips to the ground. In addition to the national tree at the Capitol, the other balsams will grace other Federal buildings and offices, including the Library of Congress and the Senate lunchroom.
The trees were cut in late November and after Terry Hoffman of the U.S. Forest Service presented them to Governor Howard Dean, they were trucked down to Washington via an antique Mack truck convoy. School children across Vermont have been busy making the ornaments for the trees, and Senators Leahy and Jeffords will throw the switch that will light the tree at a ceremony on December 14.
The National Capitol Christmas Tree is donated by a different state each year from National Forest land. Vermont last had the honor in 1980, which suggests that the Green Mountain State's Tannenbaums are seen as slightly more Christmasy than a palm tree from Florida or California.
Michael Williams of the Bennington Chamber of Commerce, one of the volunteers who put together the "Vermont Makes it Special" promotion of the National Holiday Tree, reported that last year for the first time Americans bought more artificial trees than natural ones. Groups like the New Hampshire/Vermont Christmas Tree Association and the Vermont Christmas Tree Promotion Board would like to make sure that never happens again.