US Capitol Christmas Tree

Oregon to Provide the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree in 2018

Friday, January 19, 2018

Sweet Home, Ore., January 19, 2018 – The Willamette National Forest announced today that Oregon has been selected to provide the 2018 United States Capitol Christmas Tree. A gift from the Willamette National Forest and the State of Oregon to the people of the United States, the tree will be displayed on the West Lawn of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., with a public tree-lighting ceremony in early December 2018.

Every year since 1970, the U.S. Forest Service has provided the Capitol Christmas Tree. This year, the Capitol Christmas Tree will be cut from the Sweet Home Ranger District. Seventy smaller companion trees will also be sent to Washington, D.C., to decorate government buildings and public spaces this December. Additionally, Oregonians will contribute 10,000 handmade ornaments, to be created throughout 2018. These ornaments will celebrate the state’s cultural history and people, landscapes, natural resources, and fish and wildlife.

The theme for the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree is “Find Your Trail!” in recognition of two 2018 anniversaries: the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System Act, and the 175th commemoration of the Oregon Trail.

“We are thrilled to be delivering the 2018 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, and we invite all Oregonians to be a part of this special experience throughout 2018—from making an ornament to exploring the Willamette National Forest with family and friends—in search of the perfect tree to send to Washington, D.C.,” said Nikki Swanson, Sweet Home District Ranger, Willamette National Forest.

“There is a rich history of Oregon’s forests providing for the needs of Oregonians. The Willamette National Forest provides recreational opportunities, fishing, hunting, mushroom harvesting, firewood, minerals, wood products and, of course, Christmas trees. We hope this yearlong Capitol Christmas Tree event inspires people to explore the National Forests across Oregon, and to ‘Find Your Trail,’” she continued.

The last time Oregon was chosen to provide the Capitol Christmas Tree was in 2002, when a tree was selected from the Umpqua National Forest.

“We are very honored to have been chosen to provide the 2018 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, and to share some of our state’s incredible beauty with the rest of America,” said Oregon Governor Kate Brown. “Majestic, towering conifers have long stood as an icon of Oregon’s magnificent forests. This tree will symbolize our rich natural resources, our deep Native American heritage, and the people of Oregon, who are known for their independent spirit, innovation and love for our state’s diverse landscapes.”

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree’s Journey to Washington, D.C.

In November 2018, a modern-day wagon train carrying the Christmas tree and ornaments will begin its eastward journey from Sweet Home, following the path of the Oregon Trail in reverse. The wagon train will make stops in a variety of communities across Oregon and the country before arriving in Washington, D.C. The travel route, schedule and special events will be available at www.capitolchristmastree.com.

The Willamette National Forest has partnered with Choose Outdoors and Travel Oregon for the Capitol Christmas Tree project, and a host of partners, sponsors, and volunteers will contribute funding and thousands of hours to help make ornaments and transport the tree from Oregon to Washington, D.C.

Opportunities for Public Participation Throughout 2018

Oregonians and Oregon visitors are invited to participate in U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree activities around the state during 2018, including helping to find the perfect tree to go to Washington, D.C.

  • Find the tree! The public is invited to hike and drive the Willamette National Forest—outside of the City of Sweet Home—to look for the perfect Capitol Christmas Tree. To submit a potential candidate tree, GPS the location, snap a photo, and send the submission to capitolchristmastree2018@gmail.com, or drop your information off at the Sweet Home Ranger District Office. Guidelines: The perfect tree is 65 to 85 feet in height with a conical shape that is visually pleasing from all angles. The tree must reside on U.S. Forest Service land in the Sweet Home Ranger District, preferably close to a road that will allow for access for a semi-truck and cranes to harvest the tree. Submission deadline: May 2018. Don’t forget to share your adventures on social media (Facebook and Twitter) with the #USCapitolChristmasTree, #FindYourTrail and #ItsAllYours hashtags.
  • Join an ornament-making event or host your own. Ten thousand handmade ornaments will adorn the Capitol Christmas Tree and the 70 smaller companion trees. There will be ornament-making events throughout Oregon in 2018. The first event will take place on January 20 at the Boys & Girls Club in Sweet Home (1 p.m.; 890 18th Ave.). The Willamette National Forest also invites schools, churches and community groups to contribute ornaments. There will be templates and instructions posted on the website and social media. For a schedule of events and further details, visit www.capitolchristmastree.com.
  • See the Capitol Christmas Tree as it travels along the Oregon Trail in November 2018. The travel route, schedule and special events will be available at www.capitolchristmastree.com.

To get involved: email us here.


 

Willamette National Forest Unveils Symbol Representative of Oregon for the 2018 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree

Friday, January 19, 2018

Oregon’s Willamette National Forest was selected to choose and supply the People’s Tree for 2018 for the grounds of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. The Willamette National Forest, together with Travel Oregon, has designed alogo that captures the beauty of the State of Oregon and the Willamette National Forest, with its snowcapped mountain, fields of green and lush forests. The trail leading to the tree symbolizes the adventurous spirit of Oregonians since early settlers first traversed the Oregon Trail. The logo encourages modern-day adventurers to #FindYourTrail in the Willamette National Forest.

Reflections on The People's Tree

Friday, December 08, 2017

Written James Edward Mills, U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Team & founder of The Joy Trip Project

On the day after the Lighting of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree flags across Washington D.C. were at half mast. Each year we recognize the lives of those lost on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and our entry into the Second World War. Let us never forget the sacrifice of the brave men and women who gave their lives in service to our country. We must honor their memory by continuing each and every day to dedicate ourselves to the ordinary deeds of common citizenship that bands the America People together toward the creation of a more perfect union. To paraphrase President John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what the people can do for you, but what you can do for your people.”

The People’s Tree is a symbol of the combined efforts of common folks doing their jobs in service to their fellow citizens. Hundreds of forest rangers, loggers, law enforcement officers, truck drivers, crane operators, restauranteurs, hotel staffs and school teachers from the State of Montana and across county made this gift possible. Many donated their time and effort free of charge, while others in the performance of their professional duties, worked longer hours, spent late nights and early mornings on the road for a month away from their homes and loved ones. This holiday season let’s spare a smile or a kind word to those who work in the service of others. Take a moment to remember that the blessings you enjoy and may take for granted are provided by men and women who take pride in giving you their very best. Can each of us do any less in return?

Have a Merry, Merry Christmas.

 

Tester Teams up with Bozeman Sixth Grader to Light the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

 

Published by Senator Jon Tester, December 6, 2017

(West Lawn, U.S. Capitol) - U.S. Senator Jon Tester kicked off the holiday season tonight alongside Bozeman sixth-grader Ridley Brandmayr as they lit the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree.

"When Senator Tester called my dad and told me, it didn't feel real. It took about five minutes for it to sink in," Brandmayr said. "But it definitely became real tonight and it was an experience I will never forget."

The 79-foot Engelmann Spruce traveled nearly 3,500 miles from Montana's Kootenai National Forest to grace the lawn of the U.S. Capitol building-making stops in 13 Montana cities along the way. As the senior Senator from the tree's home state, Tester was tasked with selecting the tree lighter and helping organize this year's celebration. He asked Ridley after the Bozeman sixth grader lost his right hand in a tragic accident earlier this year. Tester lost three fingers on his left hand in a similar accident when he was a kid.

"This tree has been growing in Montana for decades - enduring brutal fire seasons, and braving harsh winters. It's reached almost 80 feet tall, nourished by Montana's rich soil and sustained by clean mountain water." Tester said. "This tree is more than a symbol of the natural resources the Treasure State has to offer - it represents our shared history, intertwined with our outdoor heritage and our Montana values."

The event was co-hosted by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and also featured the other two members of Montana's Congressional delegation. On hand were dozens of folks who helped shepherd the tree from Montana to D.C.

"The selection and delivery of the Capitol Christmas tree from the Kootenai National Forest has been an extreme honor for the Forest Service and State of Montana," said Sandi Mason, the Kootenai Forest's Capitol Christmas Tree project leader. "We have met a ton of fantastic people across this great country of ours and this will be a journey that we will never forget. We are proud to display the tree, along with all of the ornaments and tree skirts that were handmade by people from all over the State."

Others in attendance included Larry Spiekermeier of Whitewood Transportation, the man who drove the tree across nearly a dozen state over the course of a two-week journey. Spiekermeier is a two-time Montana Motor Carriers "driver of the year" who hails from Plains, Montana. He will celebrate a half century on the road next year.

The tree was decorated with nearly 3,000 handmade ornaments from folks across Big Sky country. It was flanked by a custom tree skirt quilted by Shawna Crawford of Lewistown and topped by a five-foot tall copper star commissioned by the Washington Companies of Missoula, fabricated by Split Mountain Metal of Belgrade, and lit by Western Montana Lighting of Missoula.

Since 1970, a different national forest has been chosen each year to provide the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. The last tree to hail from Montana was a Subalpine Fir from the Bitterroot National Forest in 2008. The Kootenai National Forest also provided "The People's Tree" in 1989.

Watch a livestream of the event HERE.


 

Tale of a Tree and a Star

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Posted by Robert Hudson Westover, U.S. Forest Service, Washington D.C. in ForestryNov 29, 2017

For many in the D.C. area, the arrival of the towering Capitol Christmas Tree means the holiday season has begun. Every year local residents and tourists from all over the country, as well as delegations from the state that provides the tree, come to view the official lighting of what is fondly referred to as “the people’s tree” on the West Lawn of Capitol Hill.

Since 1970 the U.S. Forest Service has provided the national Capitol Christmas Tree, and every year it’s different and exciting in literally thousands of ways. This year’s tree, a 79-foot Engelmann spruce cut from the Kootenai National Forest in Montana, will be adorned with thousands of ornaments handmade by the children on Montana.

The tree called Beauty of the Big Sky began its cross country sojourn in early November and has made 21 stops at towns and cities along the way including the states of North Dakota, Minnesota, and Kentucky.

And in a first, the tree will have a star built in the same state. In August, organizers reached out to The Washington Companies, a Missoula-based conglomerate that includes Montana Rail Link, mining company Montana Resources, and environmental remediation business Envirocon.

Architect of the Capitol with members of the Montana Congressional Delegation speaking as well as USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan presides over the ceremony, which will begin at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 6th on the West Lawn of the Capitol.

As is the tradition, a child from the home state will flip the switch to illuminate the tree. Ridley Brandmayr, an 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 the outdoor ceremony.

The tradition of a U.S. Capitol Christmas tree dates to the 1960s. In 1964, a 24-foot Douglas fir was bought for $700 from a nursery in Birdsboro, Pennsylvania, and placed on the West Front lawn. That tree died after a severe storm and root damage, but the tradition of a tree on the Capitol grounds continued with the USDA Forest Service providing a tree from one of its forests.

A tree in the air
A great deal of expertise is required to safely position the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree in place. The next stop for the dangling colossus will be the West Lawn. (Photo credit: Robert Westover, U.S. Forest Service)

US Capitol Christmas Tree Seven Lincoln County Students to See Lighting of Tree, Meet with Officials

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

 

From The Western News, November 28, 2017

As the the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree on Monday ended its journey from the Kootenai National Forest to Washington, D.C., seven juniors and seniors from Lincoln County’s three high schools were eagerly anticipating their upcoming trip to see it being lit.

The students — Hunter Leighty, Allie Coldwell and Katelyn Downey of Troy High School; Sidney Stevenson and Will O’Connell of Libby High School; and Ashlyn Carvey and Mason Davis of Lincoln County High School in Eureka — won the honor of witnessing holiday history by winning the Kootenai National Forest Capitol Christmas Tree photo contest.

In addition to watching the tree lighting 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6, the students will attend a reception hosted by Sen. Jon Tester at the United States Botanic Garden and a reception hosted by U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, among other items.

For Leighty, the trip will be the second time he’s traveled outside of Montana and his first visit to the nation’s capitol.

“All of this is pretty cool and a little nerve racking,” he wrote via Facebook message. “I can’t wait.”

Carvey learned about the contest online while working for a Youth Conservation Crew over the summer, which expanded her knowledge of the Kootenai National Forest. She said she “thought it would be cool to win a trip to (Washington), D.C.,” a city she, too, has never before visited.

“I’m very excited to see a big city coming from a small town and hope to see more of the city and maybe go to the mall,” she wrote.

When Downey learned about the contest last spring, she said she “immediately knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.”

“Going to the Capitol Christmas Tree lighting is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I figured that our area is so beautiful that anyone could have a shot at winning the photo contest,” she wrote. “If all I had to do was get out, enjoy what the Kootenai National Forest has to offer, and take some pictures, I thought, ‘Why not?’”

Another first-time visitor to Washington, D.C., Downey wrote she is “super excited and grateful for the opportunity” and “would love to get out and see a little bit of the history that D.C. has to offer” if they have time outside of what’s already planned.

Stevenson was encouraged to enter the contest by her mother, Troy District Forest Ranger Kirsten Kaiser, who accompanied the trip for part of its journey east.

“It is such a great opportunity, so I couldn’t pass it up,” she wrote. “And I have never been to (Washington), D.C.”

Davis, who worked alongside his classmate Carvey in the Youth Conservation Crew, “was motivated to enter the contest because I just started getting into photography, and this seemed like a good place to start displaying my photos. (And) I’ve never actually been to the East Coast in general, so going right to Washington will be a really cool experience.”

Coldwell and O’Connell could not be reached by deadline.

The students’ winning photos were matted and framed by Devi McCully of Frames Unlimited and will be sent to Washington, D.C., where County Administrator Darren Coldwell said it will be presented to the Speaker of the House and the Capitol Architect.

“From there it’s final resting place will be in the Sidney Yates building” where the Forest Service is located, Coldwell wrote in an email.

 

I'm the truck driver delivering America's Christmas tree to the US Capitol - and I couldn't be prouder

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Posted from FOX News, November 26, 2017 - by Larry Spiekermeier with Whitewood Transport in Plains, Montana.

I’m one of 3.5 million professional truck drivers on America’s roads working to safely deliver the goods that keep our lives and economy moving, but on my latest trip, my truck is longer and heavier than usual and I couldn’t be prouder. With a 79-foot-tall Engelmann Spruce in tow, I’m the driver who’s been safely traveling across the country to deliver this year’s Christmas tree to the U.S. Capitol.

I’ve been hauling for 49 years through 49 states and am proud to say I’ve traveled 3.5-million accident-free miles. But this is the proudest job I’ve had so far in my career. For over 50 years, a Christmas tree has been put on display at the Capitol each holiday season, and this year, I’ve been proud to be a part of it, along with Whitewood Transport, who was selected from over 500,000 trucking companies in the U.S. to haul the 2017 tree to Washington.

On November 13th, I departed Montana for a two-week adventure to make the 3,460-mile journey from the Kootenai National Forest to our nation’s capital. Day after day, I’ve been rolling across the country, with stops in Missouri, Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia, where thousands of people have gathered to take part in this annual and festive journey.

I am grateful and proud of my job. Trucking really moves America. The industry provides one out of every 16 jobs. Some may be surprised to know that 80 percent of our communities in America rely solely on trucking for the delivery of their goods that keeps us running. The trucking industry also makes investments to improve safety and protect the environment, providing billions of dollars to develop the most modern trucks to keep us all safe, which is our highest priority.

For me, the best part about trucking is being able to see America. Most jobs don’t offer that opportunity. Luckily, on this journey, I’ve had the privilege to provide thousands of people across several states the opportunity to view the beautiful spruce tree before it makes its arrival to Washington. As I travel from one corner of our country to another, I have been inspired at how the nation’s Christmas tree is truly “the people’s tree.”

As I reach Washington and anticipate the lights that will shine from the grand holiday tree onto the lawn of the U.S. Capitol, I am reminded of the true value that trucking provides to America as well as the unique and special opportunities it provides. This season, the holiday gifts under the tree, the sweaters on your back and the food on the kitchen table wouldn’t be possible without trucking. I am proud to help deliver the holidays.

 

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.