The U.S. Capitol Christmas tree was ready to begin its journey to Washington, D.C., on Thursday after being cut down the day before just off Idaho 55 outside McCall.
Using a traditional crosscut saw in honor of the event, workers felled the 80-foot Engelmann spruce and loaded it on a truck for the cross-country trek.
The pine from the Payette National Forest will be placed on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol for a lighting ceremony set for Dec. 6, and a Boise schoolgirl will be part of the lighting crew.
St. Mary’s Parish School fifth grader Isabella Gerard was chosen as Idaho’s student representative to assist in the tree lighting, Sen. Mike Crapo said at a school assembly Thursday, according to a news release from the senator's office. The announcement, as intended, caught Isabella by surprise.
She was awarded the opportunity after her poem, “Pristine Idaho Mountains," was chosen at random in a contest that included over 200 entries from Idaho students. The theme was "An Idaho Mountain Gem." Crapo and fellow Idaho Sen. Jim Risch hosted the contest.
Isabella and her parents, Annalyn and Josh Gerard, of Boise, will be flown to the nation's capital, where the St. Mary's Parish student will join Crapo and House Speaker Paul Ryan to push the button lighting the tree. A youth from the state providing the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree traditionally joins in the lighting ceremony.
“I thank all the students who submitted entries for this contest and congratulate Isabella on being selected to help light our Capitol Christmas Tree," Crapo said. "She will serve as an excellent ambassador of Idaho’s youth during the lighting to be held in December.”
In the meantime, Idahoans are responsible for providing some 7,000 ornaments to be placed on the tree. But before then, the towering Engelmann spruce, on its back, so to speak, will wend through the country on a nearly 4,000-mile expedition, making numerous stops along the way.
The first stops are in McCall on Saturday, and Cascade and Horseshoe Bend on Sunday.
Also on Sunday, the tree will be at Cabela's on Franklin Road in Boise from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., and then at the Idaho State Capitol from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday.
After the Boise celebrations, the tree will be followed by a group of caretakers for the journey to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Other Idaho stops after Boise include Weiser, Council, New Meadows, Grangeville, Lapwai, Moscow, Coeur d’Alene, Salmon, Idaho Falls and Twin Falls.