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RBC I After being harvested in the White River National Forest on Nov. 2, the 2012 Capitol Christmas Tree was celebrated in Meeker for two days, then wrapped and started its journey to Washington, D.C., Nov. 6. Colorado’s gift to the people of the United States has arrived at its destination, our nation’s capitol.
The 73-foot Englemann spruce, harvested 40 miles east of Meeker from the Blanco District of the White River National Forest, toured Colorado and several states including New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia and Pennsylvania. The tree’s first stop was in Rangely and it was Blanco District Ranger Ken Coffin’s favorite.
“The tour was great. The team really enjoyed the welcome we received in Rangely,” Coffin said, who traveled with five Blanco District employees: Patty Wyatt, Natasha Goedert, Lynn Lockwood, Tonie Toelle and Kristin Silva. “People were so enthusiastic and proud that the tree came from their county. I really enjoyed my time with the kindergarten class and they were my favorite group I encountered on the entire trip.”
Coffin enjoyed other stops as well and was thankful Santa and Mrs. Claus were part of the caravan hauling the Capitol Christmas Tree and 70 companion trees.
“My favorite stop outside Colorado was Independence, Mo.,” Coffin said. “They have an annual tree lighting just like Meeker and the crowd was definitely in the Christmas spirit. Our stop at the Charlotte Motor Speedway was also memorable because the two semis were able to drag race!”
Coffin said both semis were required to chain up to go over Wolf Creek Pass, “But with the help of Gerald Morris, we made it over safe and sound.”
Never before had Santa and Mrs. Claus traveled with the Capitol Christmas Tree entourage but they did this year and Santa said it was a “trip of a lifetime.”
“It was the highlight of my life,” Santa said. “It was a great opportunity to travel across the United States, see people of all walks of life, to see many children and to spread Christmas cheer to everyone and tell them about the communities of Meeker and Rangely and the greatness of the White River valley.”
Santa said they received better receptions in the smaller towns but both Santa and Coffin said the best one was in Meeker.
“The participation in Meeker was the best,” Santa said. “The honor everyone paid the tree and to us was unbelievable and we owe a big thank you to the people in Meeker.”
“I am still overwhelmed with the turnout we had in Meeker,” Coffin said. “No community has surpassed that event.”
Santa and Coffin both credited the driving skills of former U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell.
“It was a traffic nightmare,” Santa said.
“We’ve had our challenges maneuvering a 105-foot load through big cities but Ben Nighthorse Campbell did a masterful job driving the truck and we overcame each challenging intersection,” Coffin added.
The tree will stand on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol on Constitution and Independence avenues in Washington, D.C., decorated with 5,000 ornaments handmade in Colorado and will be lit Dec. 4 at 5 p.m. by Speaker of the House John Boehner. Following the lighting ceremony, the Capitol Christmas Tree will be lit from dusk until 11 p.m. each evening through Dec. 26, 2012.
Coffin said he and his team will be delivering the companion trees and preparing for the Congressional reception between now and Dec. 4.
Santa said he was most proud when he and Mrs. Claus were standing near the Christmas tree in front of the nation’s capitol, representing the small communities of Meeker and Rangely and the great state of Colorado with news media from all over the world in attendance.
“We were interviewed by TV stations from Russia, China and other countries,” Santa said. “We told them we flew down from the North Pole to Meeker, Colo., and were blessed to travel with the tree and we wished the world merry Christmas!”