CASCADIA — Only 50 lucky people will get to see the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree harvested from the Sweet Home Ranger District on Friday morning, but everyone's invited to a 1:30 p.m. party at River Bend Campground that will feature a video of the tree cutting shown on a large screen.
Those 50 who signed up online — along with members of the media — will travel to the site at about 9:30 a.m.
Guest speakers include Sweet Home District Ranger Nikki Swanson, Regional Forester Glenn Casamassa, Jodi Massey and Mo McElroy of Choose Outdoors, Susie Pape’ of Pape’ Machinery, Scott Youngblood of Travel Oregon, Sweet Home Mayor Greg Mahler, Linn County Commissioner Will Tucker and Kendra Pennington, Senator Ron Wyden’s constituent services representative.
“This is so exciting,” said Sweet Home District Ranger Nikki Swanson. “It’s amazing to see how people have come together to get to this point. It’s not over yet, but I’m so grateful to all of the people who have stepped up to get us where we are.”
Swanson added that “from kindergarten kids to corporations, people have made this happen. Every time we needed something, someone would step up and make it happen. The wagons are packed and we are about to begin a grand adventure.”
The tree will be cut at 11:15 a.m., then lifted by crane onto a semi-trailer and hauled to River Bend Campground. Husqvarna has provided the chainsaws used to fell the 80-foot fir tree, and the saws will then be donated to the High Cascade Forest Volunteers group.
A party with light refreshments runs from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at River Bend.
The U.S. Forest Service has provided the Capitol Christmas Tree every year since 1970. Forest Service specialists picked out six potential trees, and this past summer the Architect of the Capitol visited each site to pick the perfect one. For the first time in the program’s history, a Noble fir has been selected.
In addition to the giant tree, 70 smaller trees will be harvested and used to decorate government buildings and open spaces in Washington, D.C.
Oregonians have also made and donated 10,000 small and large ornaments to adorn all of the trees. Numerous ornament-making events were held in the mid-valley and around Oregon since the event was announced in January.
The theme for this year’s event is “Find Your Trail,” in recognition of two special anniversaries in 2018: the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System Act and the 175th commemoration of the Oregon Trail.
The Capitol Christmas Tree will not leave Oregon until Nov. 14, making several stops in Oregon before headed east on its 3,000-mile journey.
A celebration is planned in Sweet Home on Nov. 9 and the tree will be sited near the Linn County Courthouse on Nov. 10, so mid-valley residents can sign their names on large banner. It will then participate in the annual Albany Veterans Day Parade.
Sweet Home’s event will include a street fair — more than 40 arts and crafts vendors — that features live music and a logging exhibition starting at noon at Sweet Home High School, 1651 Long St.
The tree will be the focus of a lighted parade at 6 p.m. on Main and Long streets.
Guest speakers will talk afterward at the high school auditorium and Brigette Harrington of Hillsboro will recite her poem about the beauty of Oregon’s outdoors. Her work was selected by Gov. Kate Brown from 1,200 entries. (Harrington and a member of her family will attend the tree lighting in Washington, D.C. as well.) A concert by Cloverdayle at 8 p.m. will wrap the festivities.
After the Albany Veterans Day Parade, the tree will make an Oregon loop, including stops at Cabela's in Springfield, the McKenzie River Ranger Station, Oakridge, Bend, Detroit, the state capitol and Oregon City before heading east on Nov. 14.
Linn County Commissioner Will Tucker and members of his family plan to caravan with the tree and to attend the tree lighting in Washington, D.C. Members of the Sweet Home City Council will also be present at the event.
The cross-country trek from Sweet Home to Washington will include stops at more than 25 communities across the nation as it follows the reverse path of the Oregon Trail.