Standing tall — but not for long — in a northern Minnesota forest is a perfectly shaped white spruce that is destined to glow throughout most of December as the U.S. Capitol's official Christmas tree.
Its exact location kept from the public for the time being, the 88-foot-tall Chippewa National Forest tree will be felled next week. Next, it will travel 2,000 miles to Washington, D.C., where it will be adorned with many thousands of lights and illuminated soon after Thanksgiving.
What made this one tree the perfect choice from among millions was its full pyramid-like shape without gaps, its healthy branches and straight trunk, and its species, hardy enough to shrug off the rigors of long-distance travel.
Along its journey, the tree will make about three dozen public appearances, including in the Twin Cities, as it is hauled on a flatbed truck.
This the first time since 1992 that this forest has supplied the Capitol with its Christmas tree.
Very carefully is the answer to how this 88-year-old tree will be made horizontal starting at high noon on Wednesday, said Michael Theune, the project leader for bringing down the spruce. The event starts with a cutting ceremony that will include a traditional blessing by members of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.
Then two cranes will take hold of the tree — one at the top and one at the bottom — and it will be cut near the base and guided onto the truck. The honor of cutting through the trunk, 30 inches in diameter, has fallen to Jim Scheff, of Marcell, Minnesota's 2014 "Logger of the Year."
The tree's first stop is nearby Bemidji State University, where it will be wrapped for safekeeping. Then it's on to its many stops along the route before reaching Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, near the nation's capital, on Nov. 20. The tree's lighting is expected to be scheduled for early December.
Don't be surprised if the tree doesn't look as tall upon its lighting as it did in the forest. After cutting and then mounting it outside the Capitol, the tree will measure about 65 feet from the ground to the very top, Theune said.
For anyone wishing to attend the cutting ceremony, e-mail requests can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or be made by phone at 1-218-335-8600. The deadline is Friday. Complete tour information is available at www.capitolchristmastree.com.