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From humble California fir to rock-star Capitol Christmas Tree

November 03, 2011|By Mary Forgione | Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger
  • Thirty white fir trees in the Stanislaus National Forest, like these pictured here, were nominated to become the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree.
Thirty white fir trees in the Stanislaus National Forest, like these pictured… (National Forest Service )

Now that Halloween has passed, it's time to talk trees — Christmas trees. Not the little 6-footers sold in lots, but the rock star that will embark on a 20-day national tour and attract all eyes as the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C.

The tree this year comes from California's Stanislaus National Forest, where, at the moment, it's being carefully watched by two federal law enforcement officers. "It's a matter of national security, so it's guarded 24/7," says Maria Benech, a national forest employee with the title U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Coordinator.

That's to keep anyone from doing anything crazy like carving their initials into the bark or booby-trapping the 65-foot Sierra white fir destined to stand in front of the Capitol building and be officially illuminated Dec. 6.

But the tree has a long way to go before then.

First it will be chopped down Saturday in a private ceremony preceded by a blessing from an elder from the Tuolumne Band of Me-wuk Indians and then taken to the Mother Lode Fairgrounds in Sonora where it will be on display from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Next it gets boxed up for a 4,500-mile swing along a southern route across the country that begins Tuesday with stops in California. While on tour, the top 8 feet will be capped with a plexiglass dome — with holes drilled into it for ventilation — so folks can see and smell the tree as it makes its way across the country.

Also, a huge banner draped around the 87-foot-long trailer carrying the tree, a kind of giant Christmas card, will be available for the public to sign. The banner and about 3,000 ornaments made by Californians will accompany it to Washington.

The tree has three scheduled stops in Southern California:

—10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 12, Saugus Speedway/Swap Meet, 22500 Soledad Canyon Road, Santa Clarita.
—Noon to 3 p.m. Nov. 13, Autry National Center parking lot, 4700 Western Heritage Way (in Griffith Park), where students will present hand-made ornaments for the tree;
—10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 14, Victoria Gardens Mall, 12505 N. Main St., Rancho Cucamonga.

From there, it's on to Arizona, New Mexico, military bases in Texas and Missouri, Indiana, North Carolina, Virginia and Pennsylvania before arriving Nov. 28 at the Capitol.

This year marks the fourth time in its 41-year history that the Capitol Christmas Tree has come from California.

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