Family Follows Tree from Oregon to Washington

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In D.C. for the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree lighting, the Feist family of Oregon, source of this year's tree, visited Georgetown for lunch at Martin's Tavern. Photo by David Dunning.

An 80-foot-tall, 8,300-pound noble fir tree, decorated with hundreds of handmade wood decorations from Oregon, will be lit by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan at 5 p.m. tonight, Dec. 6, on the West Lawn of the Capitol. 

The lighting is the culmination of a yearlong project for National Park Service Ranger Ronald Feist of Eugene, Oregon, and over a dozen members of his extended family, from age 9 on up. They have been following the tree since it was chosen early last year, going along on its epic journey to D.C., in part via the Oregon Trail (in reverse) to celebrate the historic trail’s 175th anniversary. 

“Almost every town in Oregon had a parade and contributed ornaments,” “Grandma” Terry Feist told The Georgetowner excitedly outside Martin’s Tavern. Since Dec. 1, the family has been in town seeing “all the museums” and attending numerous official events at the federal agencies throughout D.C. that also received trees and ornaments from Oregon as part of the annual U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree project.   

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree is known as “the people’s tree.” Ever since 1970, after a 24-foot-tall live Christmas tree on the Capitol grounds succumbed to wind and root damage, the Architect of the Capitol has asked the U.S. Forest Service to provide a Christmas tree.  

Since then, a different national forest has been chosen each year to provide the large tree, as well as some 70 smaller companion trees for federal offices. The agreement includes a partnership with local and state groups to create some 10,000 ornaments that celebrate each state’s cultural history, people, landscapes, natural resources and fish and wildlife.  

Originally, the lighting ceremony was to take place on Dec. 5. It was postponed to the following day due to the state funeral of former President George H.W. Bush. 

Following the lighting ceremony, the Capitol Christmas Tree will be lit from dusk until 11 p.m. nightly during the holiday season. As part of the Architect of the Capitol’s continuing commitment to save energy, strands of LED lights will be used to decorate the entire tree. LED lights use little electricity and have an extremely long life span.

This year’s tree from Willamette is a 350-year-old Abies procera noble fir with a 24-foot limb span. According to the NFS, the Willamette National Forest comprises nearly 1.7 million acres along the western slopes of the Cascade Range in western Oregon, including seven major peaks, three rivers, eight wilderness areas, several historic lava flows, hundreds of high-elevation lakes and large stands of Douglas fir, the official state tree of Oregon.

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