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Capitol Christmas tree from Colville National Forest

June 26, 2013

Botanist Amy Cabral helps Mia Beckner select some sequins for her decoration.

Christmas may be the farthest holiday from people’s minds now that summer is here. However, in the final days before the school year ended, Stephanie Wilson’s first grade class at Hofstetter Elementary could think of little else. Children were preoccupied with making decorations for the 2013 U.S. Capitol Christmas tree. They join other students and organizations from all over the state that are contributing decorations and tree skirts to the evergreen tree that will be selected from the Colville National Forest (CNF).
“The kids are really excited about this,” says Wilson. “When they found out their decorations are going to the White House, there was this collective, “Wow!”
Only one other time has the Capitol tree come from Washington State. In 2006, a Pacific silver fir was cut from the Olympic National Forest and trucked to Washington, D.C.
Botanist Amy Cabral and Mary Rourke, a silviculturist with CNF, were on hand in the classroom to help students as they rolled pine cones in glue, covered them in glitter, and added an assortment of sequins.
“Everybody loves Christmas trees,” says Rourke. “Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas.”

8,000 ornaments needed

The 60 to 90 foot tree will need 5,000 ornaments to adorn its boughs. This year’s theme for the Capitol tree is “Sharing Washington’s Good Nature.” Washington residents of all skill and ages are invited to create ornaments that reflect the theme. The CNF will collect ornaments throughout the year prior to shipping them to Washington D.C. Deadline for receiving ornaments is Oct. 1.
“It’s been really fun for the kids, and I’ve been having a good time,” says Rourke. “If people are interested in doing an ornament event, whether it’s for a club or a church, or whatever, I’d ask them to please get in touch with me.”
Ted Bechtol, superintendent of grounds at the Capitol, will travel to the Colville National Forest this summer to make the final selection. According to Rourke, the tree will be around 60 to 90 feet tall.
Once the tree is cut, it will tour Northeast Washington and then the rest of the state before making its way east to the Capitol. The lighting will be in early December.
In addition, Washington state forests will provide up to 80 smaller trees and decorations for government offices in the capital. Another 3,000 ornaments will be needed for these companion trees.
For those looking to create an ornament, there are some criteria, since the tree will be presented outside in front of the White House. Ornaments can’t be returned to each individual person, so while thoughtful creation is appreciated, don’t use valuable materials one would want back. Dimensions should be nine to 12-inches in size and less than ½ pound in weight. They should be durable and weatherproof for use in outdoors and winter conditions. No glass or breakable materials (see for more details).
“We encourage people to get creative, use recycled materials, and take pride in this project,” says Rourke. “It’s a reflection of our state and more specifically our local communities here.”
Call Rourke at (509) 775-7421 for more information, or email

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