US Capitol Christmas Tree

Cutting the People’s Tree

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

 

From Forest Business NetworkEditor’s Note: The following is a speech that Pete Tallmadge delivered on the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Tour when it visited Troy, Montana.

When Kirsten Kaiser, the Three Rivers District Ranger, called and asked if I would consider being the sawyer for the 2017 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, I just about said no. To tell you the truth, I immediately thought of three or four other sawyers that she should call instead.

As loggers, the majority of us love our work because of the solitude it affords. Limelight is uncomfortable.

Personally, I prefer the predictability of the average, mundane day. I love my job and I love it’s routine. All of this is slightly out of routine, wouldn’t you say?

Fortunately though, Kirsten’s call came as a voicemail and I had the chance to discuss this unexpected opportunity with my family before giving her an answer. The consensus was a resounding “yes, you have to do it,” so I called her and accepted the invitation.

To tell you the truth, I really didn’t anticipate the level of hoopla surrounding the cutting. I mean it’s just one tree, right? But as I’ve walked out the events of the last week it’s become very clear that it’s about more than just a tree.

It’s about opportunity…its about pride…its about our timber heritage…and our community.

I have been given the opportunity to not only represent myself and my family, I’ve been given the chance to represent the timber industry, this community, and the great state of Montana.

We have been given the privilege of providing the “People’s Tree” to the rest of the country.

This tree is a gift from you…this tree is a gift from us…this tree is a gift to everyone who calls the United States of America home.

Now I realize it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, but let me be the first to say…”Merry Christmas.”


 

Made in Montana: It takes a state to build a star

Sunday, November 19, 2017

From Montana Standard, November 18, 2017

Butte will get a nod all the way from the nation's capital in December when a copper star shines from the top of the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree — a 15,000-pound, 30-inch-diameter, Montana-grown Engelmann spruce.

Called the "People's Tree," the 79-foot conifer from Kootenai National Forest will be adorned with the 4-foot-wide-by-5-foot-tall copper star. Missoula-based Washington Companies designed, planned, and funded the star to celebrate Butte's rich mining history. Butte copper mine operator Montana Resources is part of Washington Companies.

The star has a steel frame wrapped in copper. Frosted Plexiglas allows internal lighting to glow through, like a lantern.

Fabricator Split Mountain Metals, a Belgrade-based business, constructed the star. Owner Brad Brenteson said he got the copper from his supplier. MR vice president of human resources Mike McGivern said MR's copper has been shipped to Utah and Asia for smelting this past year.

So it's impossible to know the origin point for the metal itself, but multiple Montana entities came together to create a star and electrify a Montana tree — Montana's gift to the nation to celebrate Christmas.

"It's a beautiful thing," McGivern said.

Brenteson's staff of five was "all hands on deck for two weeks" in Belgrade, near Bozeman, putting in 1,000 hours altogether to "get 'er done."

"It was pretty crazy on my end," Brenteson said. "We'd never done a project to that scale before."

Washington Companies' graphic designer Ashley Steeves normally designs printed materials for the Dennis Washington-owned business. She never thought she'd be designing a star for the Capitol's Christmas tree.

"It was amazing. I was definitely not expecting to design a star to go to the Capitol," Steeves said. "It's different than anything I do here."

The star has eight points and features Montana's state flower, the bitterroot, on the front and back — a three-dimensional copper piece attached at the center.

Steeves said she and the four-person design team at Washington Companies came up with the bitterroot because they were looking for something "festive" that would represent Montana. It took about two and a half weeks to design it.

The tree was cut by fourth-generation Montanan Pete Tallmadge near Yaak in the northwestern corner of the state. U.S. Forest Service program manager Sandi Mason said the tree is 76 years old.

Around 70 companion trees, ranging anywhere from 6 to 20 feet tall — and all from Montana — will go to Senate and congressional offices. The more than 12,500 ornaments that will hang from the trees are all Montana-made. Even the skirts that will go under all of the companion trees were hand-crafted in Montana.

While Montana has provided Christmas trees to the U.S. Capitol building in the past, the "People's Tree" has never before been adorned by a copper star. It's the 53rd Capitol Christmas Tree and the third from Montana. The Kootenai National Forest supplied a taller Engelmann spruce in 1989. The Bitterroot Forest gave a 70-foot subalpine fir in 2008.

The trucking company, Billings-based Whitewood Transport, is already en route with the tree on its 3,000-mile journey. The trip began in Eureka in northwest Montana Monday. You can follow its route online by going to www.trackthetree.com.

The lights within the star were created by Missoula-based Western Montana Lighting. Owner Drew Mihelish said she and her warehouse manager designed the internal lighting and built the boxes inside the star that "make it work."

The star is sitting in storage in Missoula, but it will be trucked to Butte Monday by Whitewood Transport. The star will be on view at Montana Resources' parking lot, 600 Shields Ave., from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday. The public is welcome to stop by to see the nation's Christmas tree star.

From Butte, the star will begin its own 3,000-mile journey, making additional stops in Livingston and Billings before heading onward to Washington, D.C. The star and the tree will rendezvous at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland before arriving on the West Front Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. The lighting ceremony is set for 3 p.m. Montana time on Dec. 6.

An 11-year-old Bozeman sixth-grader, Ridley Brandmayr, who lost the fingers on his right hand in an accident earlier this year, will help Republican U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan flip the switch during the official lighting of the tree.

As Montana's senior senator, Democrat Sen. Jon Tester was able to choose which Montanan would help Ryan turn on the lights. Tester picked Brandmayr for showing "incredible strength, determination, perseverance and passion."

Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, along with his wife Cindy, will also attend the ceremony. Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte will give a brief speech.

"It's a really neat project," Brenteson said. "It's a big honor to be involved with the People's Christmas Tree. I'm looking forward to seeing the star on the tree. Hopefully everyone will enjoy it as much as we do."

5

Trucker originally from Casselton hauling Capitol Christmas tree to Washington

Thursday, November 16, 2017

From Ag Week, November 16, 2017

FARGO, N.D. — A few days after Thanksgiving, a Casselton boy, now 70, will get a private tour of the White House. That will happen after he drops off a 79-foot tall Engelmann spruce at the U.S. Capitol to serve as the Capitol Christmas tree. He's driving it from Montana aboard a 102-foot long tractor-trailer.

You can see the tree and meet the driver, Larry Spiekermeier, in Fargo on Sunday morning, Nov. 19, if your timing is right.,

The Capitol Christmas tree was cut last week in Montana's Kootenai National Forest, and began its trek to Washington, D.C., on Monday. It will travel nearly 3,500 miles through 10 states, making 20 official stops, before being delivered to the west lawn of the Capitol on Monday, Nov. 27.

The tree will make official stops in the region at Dickinson, Grand Forks, and Browns Valley, Minn., but the Fargo stop is an unscheduled stop that is being made because Spiekermeier grew up in the area, still has many friends and relatives here, and requested it.

The truck and its sizeable entourage will stop to get fuel at Love's truck stop on 39th Street South in Fargo, just west of Interstate 29. Spiekermeier figures he'll arrive there about 11 or 11:30 on Sunday morning, if all goes right.

He will stay as long as it takes to fill the truck's tanks with diesel, probably about 30 minutes. He encourages the public to come see the tree while he does that.

Spiekermeier was chosen to drive the truck by his employer, Whitewood Transport, of Billings, Mont. He was selected because of his exemplary driving record and his expertise at driving extra-large loads. He's never had an accident in 3.5 million miles of driving a big rig.

"It's an honor," Spiekermeier said. "It was a shock that they chose me to do it."

It's a fitting climax to a nearly 50-year driving career for Spiekermeier, who has been driving tractor-trailers since the day he turned 21 on July 18, 1968, the first day he was legally allowed to haul a load across state lines. His employer, Fargo's Mitchell Transport, had him haul a truckload of cement to Minnesota.

Spiekermeier was born in Fargo and grew up in Casselton, where his father owned a farm implement dealership. He graduated from high school at Central Cass School in 1965 and entered the North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton, where he earned a two-year business degree.

Spiekermeier moved to Montana in 1975, without a job lined up. "I liked hunting. I liked the outdoors. I liked the mountains. I just went out and bought an old logging truck, and that's how I got started."

These days, Spiekermeier lives in western Montana in a town called Plains. Although he hasn't lived in North Dakota in many years, he's maintained strong ties to the area. Two brothers live in West Fargo. He has numerous relatives around Enderlin and nearby Sheldon. Until his parents died, he visited Fargo five or six times a year.

Ironically, his daughter now lives in Fargo, where she works as a computer specialist. Spiekermeier and his wife, Mary Ann, regularly travel to Fargo to visit her and their grandkids. He also stops whenever he hauls a load through the area.

He still roots for North Dakota State University athletics teams. "He's pretty annoying with all that NDSU Bison stuff," joked J.B. Behounek, a salesman at Whitewood.

The Capitol Christmas tree (not to be confused with the National Christmas Tree, which is a live pine on the White House grounds that is decorated every year) will be carried in a large container with Plexiglas sides, which will protect the tree from road salt and other damaging materials, while still allowing people to view the tree on its trip to the nation's capital.

Workers spent a week preparing the tree for transport. Its branches measure 30 feet from tip to tip, so they had to be slowly and carefully folded inward to fit into the eight-foot wide box and prevent them from being damaged. The process will be reversed after the tree arrives at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, outside Washington. A 100-gallon "bladder" attached to the tree will keep it moist.

Spiekermeier won't drive his own truck to Washington, but one that has been specially decorated for the occasion. He will also be accompanied by a multi-vehicle entourage. Two U.S. Forest Service law enforcement vehicles, lights flashing, will escort the truck. It will be followed by a second truck that will carry 73 smaller trees that will decorate government offices, plus 12,000 ornaments. Six other vehicles will travel with him.

The tour will include 12 stops in Montana, two in North Dakota, one in Minnesota, three in Missouri, one in Kentucky and one in Maryland. The tour will stop in downtown Dickinson at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 18; downtown Grand Forks at 9 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 19; and Browns Valley at 1:30 p.m. that same day. There will be ceremonies at each stop.

Spiekermeier's wife will ride with him to Fargo. They will rendezvous with his two brothers and daughter in Grand Forks. His wife, daughter, brothers and sister will fly to Washington for the tree-lighting ceremony.

He and his wife will tour the White House. He doesn't know if he'll get to meet President Donald Trump. Would he like to do that? "You bet," he said.

Spiekermeier supports Trump, though he didn't get the opportunity to vote for him. Fittingly, he was on the road.

All is bright: Capitol Christmas Tree will be topped with Montana-made star

Monday, November 13, 2017

The 5-foot tall copper star is the first to come from the state supplying the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, and features a representation of Montana’s state flower, the bitterroot. The star is made from copper as a nod to the rich copper mining tradition of Butte, Mont. It was designed, planned, and funded by the Washington Companies, fabricated by Split Mountain Metals, and lighted by Western Montana Lighting.

    

 

Kenworth T680 Advantage Begins Transport of U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree to Washington, D.C., Following Harvest

Thursday, November 09, 2017

 

LIBBY, Mont., Nov. 9, 2017 – The 53rd U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree – a 79-foot Englemann Spruce from northwestern Montana – began its nearly 3,000-mile journey from the Kootenai National Forest to Washington, D.C., following its harvesting 45 miles north of Libby Tuesday.

After the cutting, the “People’s Tree” was hoisted onto a specially designed flatbed trailer. Larry Spiekermeier, a 1.6-million mile, accident-free driver with Billings, Montana-based Whitewood Transport, hauled the tree in a Kenworth T680 Advantage to a U.S. Forest Service warehouse. There, the special tree will be fitted with a special 80-gallon water bladder to keep it hydrated, carefully wrapped and boxed, before traveling on a tour of 15 community events across Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Missouri, and Kentucky.

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree is 76 years old and weighed in at harvest at about 15,000 pounds, according to Sandi Mason, the U.S. Forest Service’s U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree project leader.“It’s an absolutely beautiful tree,” Mason said. “Despite all of the wildfires that burned in Montana this year, we feel fortunate that the Englemann Spruce chosen in July by the Architect of the U.S. Capitol was untouched by fires.”

The Kenworth T680 Advantage transporting the tree features a distinctive exterior design,with the 2017 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree – Kootenai National Forest seal, brightly lit and colorfully adorned Christmas Tree, and the U.S. Capitol beneath a starry sky with the words “Big Sky. Big Tree. Big Journey.”The T680 also sports thelogo of Whitewood Transport, a recent multiple-year recipient (including 2016) of the Motor Carrier of the Year from the Motor Carriers of Montana.

The T680 features the PACCAR Powertrain equipped with the PACCAR MX-13 engine, PACCAR 12-speed automated transmission with column-mounted shifter, and PACCAR 40,000-pound tandem rear axle. The T680’s specifications include a 76-inch sleeper with Kenworth’s premium “Driver’s Studio” option, TruckTech+ remote diagnostics system, predictive cruise control, idle management system, driver performance center, and premium GT703 seats.

The tour stops begin Monday, Nov. 13, at the Eureka Town Hall in Eureka, Montana, and ends Nov. 26 at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. The tree will be delivered to the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 27. The U.S. Speaker of the House – Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, and a Montanan, chosen by U.S. Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, will light the tree at a special ceremony in early December.

Kenworth Truck Company is the manufacturer of The World’s Best® heavy and medium duty trucks. Kenworth’s Internet home page is at www.kenworth.com. Kenworth is a PACCAR company.

 

 

SkyBitz Celebrates 10 Years of Tracking the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree’s Journey to the Nation’s Capitol

Thursday, November 09, 2017

SkyBitz® will once again provide real-time tracking of the United States Capitol Christmas Tree from Montana to the Nation’s Capitol. Through its tracking solution, SkyBitz will provide a detailed map of the tree’s location, bringing visibility of its entire journey via the newly redesigned website, TracktheTree.com.

“We are excited to support the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree’s journey to Washington, D.C. for the tenth year,” said Henry Popplewell, President, SkyBitz. “Throughout the 10 years, we’ve not only formed great partnerships with our peers in the transportation industry, but also with the national forest community and the Northern-Virginia area where the tree brightens the Capitol for the holidays. We look forward to continuing this wonderful tradition for years to come.”

“We are grateful for SkyBitz’ decade-long support of the Capitol Christmas Tree and continued participation by using its innovative technology so everyone can ‘track the tree,” said Bruce Ward, founder and president of Choose Outdoors.

In addition to providing the latest location information, TracktheTree.com will provide photos from each community celebration and facts about each location. The public can also keep up with the SkyBitz Track the Tree via social media.

Over the past decade SkyBitz has made it possible to track the Capitol Christmas Tree using its global asset management solution. For more information about the SkyBitz solutions used to track the tree, visit: www.skybitz.com/products-services.

 

Excerpts from SkyBiz press release, November 9, 2017

Capitol Christmas Tree begins journey from Yaak, Montana to Washington, DC

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

 

From ABC FOX MONTANA

The journey begins for this year's Capitol Christmas Tree.

Hand-picked this spring from the Kootenai National Forest, it will now travel over 3,000 miles to Washington, DC.

Tuesday marked the "felling" or cutting down of the 81-foot tall Engelmann spruce.

Out of a forest of trees, the U.S. Forest Service narrowed down its selection to six needle-branched contestants.

This final tree was chose because of its luscious green color and full tree limbs.

After it was pruned, a fifth generation sawyer sawed it at the base, which measures 26-inches in diameter.

Using a two-crane pulley system, it was hoisted on top of a semi-truck and laid to rest in a wooden cradle.

For the next week, the limbs on the tree will be slowly tucked into its truck, eight inches at a time, so not to break tree branch and to allow it to fit inside an eight-by-eight foot plexiglass box.

Be sure to join ABC FOX Montana along this journey of hauling one of America's most special Christmas trees.

It will depart from Libby for Whitefish on Monday, and then make several stops in Montana along the way before it reaches its final destination of Washington, D.C.

 

Sawyer Selected to Cut 2017 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

 

A local sawyer has been selected to cut the 2017 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. Kootenai Forest Supervisor recently selected Pete Tallmadge of Troy, Montana with the honor of cutting the Capitol Christmas Tree.

Pete Tallmadge is a life-long resident of northwest Montana. He is a 4th generation Montanan and a 3rd generation logger who works with Tallmadge Logging, which started operation in the 1960’s by his father, Stan Tallmadge. Pete and his wife Pam are the parents of five children and one grandchild.

His company has done a lot of roadbuilding for timber access and 99 percent of all the logging work has been in Lincoln County. Pete and his family have a life-long history in northwest Montana and both his grandfather and uncle were sawyers and now his son, Adam is in the business. “What loggers look like will keep changing, but we would like to be part of the logging industry for future generations in northwest Montana,” said Tallmadge.

When asked about cutting the 2107 Capitol Christmas tree Tallmadge responded, “I’m honored, privileged and a little anxious about the event, but mostly happy that my kids and grandkids will be able to remember that I was a sawyer and that they have a strong family history of working in the timber industry in northwest Montana.”

The tree, which Pete will cut, is a 79 ft. tall Engelmann Spruce that is located on the Three Rivers Ranger District in Troy, Montana. It will be cut on Wednesday, November 8 and drone footage of the tree cutting will be on Facebook and also provided to media outlets.

The tree will then be prepped for the almost 3,000-mile trip, which includes a series of community celebrations and culminates with the official tree lighting in early December. After arriving in Washington, D.C. the tree lighting will occur in early December as determined by the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“We are pleased that a local sawyer agreed to cut the 2017 Capitol Christmas tree,” said Kootenai Forest Supervisor Christopher Savage. “Mr. Tallmadge comes well recommended and has decades of wood-working experience.”

 

Companion Trees Help tell the Story of the Kootenai

Thursday, November 02, 2017

 

In addition to the 79 foot Englemann Spruce, nearly 70 companion trees will make their way to Washington D.C., where they will grace legislative offices and federal buildings, and be decorated with some of the 12,000+ ornaments and nearly 80 tree skirts collected throughout the state of Montana.

Trees came from Libby, Stillwater, Swan, and Kalispell in Northwest Montana. Most range from 6 to 8 feet tall and represent a variety of species.

On October 31, Montana Department of Natural Resources Forester, Mike Justus, collected trees from each area and delivered to Libby, where Steve Gauger, retired Forest Service and Christmas tree farmer from Eureka, bundled and wrapped the trees for transport to D.C.

    

 

Thank you to the Montana Department of Natural Resources for the support!


 

Montana Boy to Light Capitol Christmas Tree From Kootenai

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

From Bozeman Daily Chronicle, November 1, 2017

Mr. Ridley is going to Washington.

Ridley Brandmayr, the 11-year-old Bozeman boy who lost the fingers of his right hand in an accident this summer, has been chosen by Montana Sen. Jon Tester to light the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree at an outdoor ceremony on Dec. 6.

Tester’s office announced the honor Tuesday, saying that because the Christmas tree will come from Montana and he is the state’s senior senator, Tester gets to choose the person who will light the tree.

“Ridley has shown incredible strength, determination, perseverance and passion,” Tester said in a statement. “Ridley will represent Montana well and I look forward to celebrating this Christmas season with the Brandmayr family and every Montanan.”

Ridley, now a sixth-grader at Sacajawea Middle School, took time out Tuesday from a Halloween party at home with several buddies to talk about the chance to light the national tree. He said he felt “excited and grateful for the opportunity.”

The Brandmayr family made a long-planned trip to Washington last month. They met Sens. Tester and Steve Daines at the Wednesday morning Montana Coffee, open to any visiting constituents. That’s when Tester first suggested the tree-lighting honor.

“I was just amazed,” Ridley said. “I couldn’t believe it. It was one of those moments that are like a dream.”

Tester, who lost three fingers on his left hand when he was a boy, had phoned Ridley after the boy’s June 30 kitchen accident, while he was still being treated at Children’s Primary Hospital in Salt Lake City.

Mom Emily Brandmayr said Tester urged her son not to use the injury as an excuse, or to see it as a disability, but to feel that “’you will prevail.’” It was a lovely thing to do, she said.

Ridley said that Tester’s call gave him a feeling like confidence.

“I just thought it was cool that he was in a similar accident and years later he became a senator,” Ridley said. “He didn’t let that slow him down.”

After staying with family in Iowa this summer, the Brandmayrs returned to Bozeman just before school started.

“He’s doing really well,” dad Brent Brandmayr said. “By and large he’s thriving at Sacajawea. The teachers have been super supportive. It helps Emily and I to see how well he’s doing.”

Ridley is back on the Barracuda swim team. At an informal swim-a-thon, Ridley swam more than two miles without a prosthetic, his dad said. The first meet is coming up this weekend in Butte, and his son seems a little nervous but excited.

“It’s pretty inspirational,” Brent said. Ridley is a neat and amazing kid, he said, who has impressed the surgeons and other adults he’s met.

Ridley said he’s playing cello again. His teacher fixed up a weight lifting glove, putting two holes in it to help him hold the bow with his injured hand. His dad said Ridley has also been fishing, and hopes to get back to soccer.

“No,” Ridley said. There’s nothing he can’t do.

This summer friends from Ridley’s fifth-grade class at Longfellow School, their parents and his former teacher, Patti Ritter, decided to raise money to help defray hospital bills and show their support.

Kids sold lemonade downtown and at Bogert Park, knit hats and stuffed animals to sell, got donations from businesses, and sent Ridley cards, candy drawings and get-well wishes. The classmates raised thousands of dollars to contribute through a GoFundMe page, which posted that more than $42,000 was raised.

Despite the accidents, surgeries and all he has been through, Ridley is still himself.

“He’s still got his great sense of humor,” his dad said.

Before school started, Brent said, the family held a party, inviting all the Longfellow fifth-graders who were about to start sixth grade, as a thanks to the community.

“It was really cool and neat,” Brent said. “The kids got to see him before school started and reestablish that bond. The kids were super respectful. They were playing football and wrestling.

“We’re definitely feeling really grateful for all the support.”

For the Halloween party, Ridley dressed up as the lead rock guitarist Slash from Guns N’Roses, while his younger brother Ross, 8, was a devil. Friends came as the Energizer bunny, Mr. Monopoly, a lumberjack and characters from the “Hunger Games” and “Star Wars.”

“It’s been wonderful being back,” Emily said.

The Capitol Christmas tree will be cut Nov. 8 in the Kootenai National Forest. From northwest Montana it will travel thousands of miles to Washington.

It will make several stops in Montana, starting Nov. 13 in Eureka and Whitefish; Nov. 14 in Libby, Troy and Trout Creek; Nov. 15 in Thompson Falls and Missoula; Nov. 16 in Helena and Great Falls; Nov. 17 in Fort Belknap and Glasgow; Nov. 18 in Glendive; and then on to North Dakota, Minnesota, Missouri, Kentucky and Maryland.