Thousands of ornaments made for Capitol tree

Members of the Meeker High School National Honor Society and FCCLA help affix hangers, wrap and box more than 5,000 ornaments. Mary Cunningham-Gillispie of the Blanco District visited all the schools in Meeker, Craig and Rangely and attended many festivals in the area gathering ornaments and spreading the message of “Celebrating our Great Outdoors.”
MEEKER I As the journey of Colorado’s “gift to the nation,” the 2012 Capitol Christmas Tree and more than 70 companion trees, begins Nov. 6, more than 5,000 handmade ornaments have been wrapped and boxed for the trip to our nation’s capitol, with thanks to many across the state.
It was announced in December 2011 that the 2012 Capitol Christmas Tree would be harvested from the White River National Forest and since that time Mary Cunningham-Gillispie of the Blanco Ranger District and ornament coordinator has been visiting schools and attending festivals gathering the ornaments.
“This is an incredibly special honor to us locally because it is considered the people’s tree, a gift from the people of Colorado to the people of the United States, so it is a big honor that is coming from the White River National Forest,” Cunningham-Gillispie, a wildlife biologist for the Blanco Ranger District, said.
She visited all the schools in Meeker, Rangely and Craig and also attended several festivals during the year including Grand Old West Days in Craig, Range Call, Septemberfest and the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials. She also attended Cabela’s customer appreciation day in Grand Junction and youth appreciation day in Montrose and said there were several other helpers around the state giving presentations and spreading the message.
The theme of the 2012 Capitol Christmas Tree is “celebrating our great outdoors” and enjoying public lands.
“It’s been really fun watching kids think outside the box,” Cunningham-Gillispie said.
“The theme of project ‘Celebrating our great outdoors’ aims to get people outside, especially kids to enjoy the outdoors and our forest,” she said. “It was fun to go into the schools and talk about the outdoors and fun things to do, suggesting to kids to get out of house, off their iPads and to go fishing, hiking, backpacking and stuff.”
Most of the ornaments were made from recycled materials and depicted what kids like to do outdoors.
Cunningham-Gillispie said Kristin Henderson’s fifth-grade class in Meeker decorated frames and put pictures of what they like to do outside in the frame, then took it one step further by writing a message on the back of them.
“On the other end, the group reads the story about the kids that made the ornaments and pictures of the kids keeps it personal to Colorado,” she said.
Ray Durham of Waddle Creek Lumber Sawmill donated 1,300 Aspen rounds for Moffat County schoolkids to decorate and the Colorado State Forest Service provided 3,000 tree “cookies” from dead lodge pole pines, giving them a chance to talk about the pine beetle epidemic in our forests.
Cunningham-Gillispie said they worked with three different Ute tribes; the Utes of the Uintah and Ouray tribe, the Southern Ute Indian tribe and Ute Mountain Ute tribe, all made ornaments, including hand stitched cradle boards that will be used to decorate one of the companion trees that will go to the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, in Washington, D.C.
After all the ornaments were made, crews consisting of the Meeker High School National Honor Society and the FCCLA started meeting in September every Wednesday and Sunday (seven hours) at the exhibition hall at the Rio Blanco County fairgrounds to affix each ornament with a hanger, pack them into boxes and shrink wrap them all to be loaded onto one of the trailers.
“I would bring pizza and it kept them coming back,” Cunningham-Gillispie said of her packing crew. “We’re thankful to Bill Jordan and the county for letting us use the space.”
Cunningham-Gillispie said most of the outdoor ornaments are usually destroyed by weather after being displayed for more than three weeks but the indoor ornaments are donated to children’s hospitals and nursing homes.