The State Capitol has a lot of halls to deck this holiday season.
Thanksgiving is over and the Capitol menorah has been up and glowing on the upper west lawn since sunset Wednesday. Inside, crews are preparing for the arrival of no fewer than three Christmas trees.
The largest, the one that will tower over the rotunda, will arrive this week from Bork Tree Farms in Hinckley. Teams of volunteers will be on hand to decorate the tree, spooling yards of ribbons up and around the evergreen for 20 feet or more.
“Even with the highest ladder, we can barely get the bow on top,” said Jessica Miles, spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Minnesota Grown program, which coordinates the holiday cheer.
Two other trees arrive Tuesday, bound for the governor’s reception room and the lobby of the attorney general’s office across the hall.
Providing those trees is the job of each year’s grand champion Christmas tree from the Minnesota State Fair. This year, for the third year in a row, the trees will be coming from Happy Land Tree Farms in Sandstone.
Happy Land, run by brothers Ken and Phil Olson, operates three tree lots around the Twin Cities area, as well as its cut-your-own farm in Sandstone. The business, started by a teenage Ken Olson, now draws the generations back to pick out their holiday trees.
“We have so many customers who come back year after year,” said company spokeswoman Jo Olson. “It’s a family tradition to go out, bring the kids, pick out the tree.”
The Agriculture Department recruits volunteers each year to help trim the trees.
The decorations change each year, said Adam Giorgi, spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Administration. One year, Giorgi said, ornaments dedicated to Minnesota sports teams covered the trees from top to bottom.
The ornaments likely will go on a Fraser fir this year, Olson said.
Elsewhere in St. Paul, the halls of the governor’s residence will be a bit less decked than usual this year. Restoration and repair work at the residence have forced the cancellation of the usual Christmas tree delivery and visitor tours have been called off for the year, as well.
The century-old home on Summit Avenue is undergoing $2.6 million in repair work to its exterior and interior. The State Capitol’s multiyear, $272 million renovation so far hasn’t interfered with holiday decorations.
Minnesota Grown offers an online directory to speed the search for local tree farms at www3.mda.state.mn.us/mngrown.
Minnesota tree farmers sell an estimated 500,000 pine, spruce and fir trees every Christmas, the Agriculture Department estimates. The average tree takes between eight and 12 years to grow to holiday height.
New budget forecast
Minnesota Management and Budget officials will release their newest snapshot of the state economy and budget on Dec. 5. The twice-annual budget forecast gives state officials and legislators the most up-to-date look at the state economy and sets the projected budget surplus or deficit. Commissioner Jim Schowalter and his staff keep the forecast a closely held secret until release day. The other forecast is released in February.