Capitol Christmas Tree18 (copy)

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree lit during ceremony at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018. The 80-foot Noble fir was harvested from the Willamette National Forest in Oregon. 

The story of this year's Capitol Christmas Tree reached its climax on Thursday, when the tree was officially lit to brighten the holiday season in Washington, D.C.

Some 3,000 miles away, the ceremony also brightened the hearts of mid-valley residents.

It's been quite a journey for this 75-foot Noble fir from the Sweet Home Ranger District, which was handpicked for the honor weeks ago by the Capitol's architect and harvested on Nov. 2. The tree then embarked on that long road trip across the United States, a journey during which it was feted in towns ranging from St. Louis to Perry, Kansas. (The first two-thirds of the journey was meant to evoke, in reverse, the Oregon Trail; this year marks the 175th anniversary of the Great Migration of 1843.) 

Give the federal government its due: Its workers really know how to decorate a Christmas tree. (The tree is graced with colorful and energy-saving LED lights.) The tree, which looked great before, looked fabulous on Thursday afternoon when it was lit on the west lawn of the Capitol.

But give the mid-valley its due as well: The community of Sweet Home and people from throughout the area have been incredibly supportive of this process from the first announcement, about a year ago, that the Capitol tree would come from the Sweet Home Ranger District of the Willamette National Forest. (Every year, the Capitol Christmas Tree comes from one of the national forests.) Residents were invited to explore the forest to keep an eye out for just the perfect tree, and many of them did so — and the hope is that at least some of them might return to the forest for many years to come.

As it turned out, though, the process was considerably more involved than merely finding the right tree, harvesting it, sliding it into its plastic enclosure for the road trip and sending it on its way.

Oregon residents were charged with creating some 10,000 handmade ornaments that now proudly adorn the Capitol tree, along with dozens of other trees from the Sweet Home Ranger District that will be placed in other federal buildings in Washington, complete with handmade tree skirts for each one.

Sweet Home Ranger Nikki Swanson deserves particular credit for shepherding this process every step of the way, and she told Democrat-Herald reporter Alex Paul on Thursday that the trip east and the tree-lighting ceremony was "the most amazing thing I will ever do in my life."

She added: "I would love to be able to bottle the joy associated with this tree."

Creating those handmade ornaments was the sort of labor of love that you expected mid-valley residents to embrace, and they came through. Everyone who had a hand in crafting those ornaments has reason to be proud today: Every single one of those ornaments serves as an ambassador from the Beaver State. 

And so is the tree itself, standing watch over the Capitol for the remainder of the holidays. Think of it as a 75-foot-tall Christmas card from Oregon. (mm)

Thanks, Councilor Kopczynski

Albany Mayor Sharon Konopa and members of the City Council on Wednesday night honored outgoing Ward II Councilor Ray Kopczynski, who chose not to seek re-election and is stepping down after serving on the council since 2011.

We were gratified to hear that Kopczynski plans to stay involved in city affairs, and we were struck by some of his comments at his final council meeting: "I got a perverse enjoyment out of the give and take," he said of council meetings — even though fellow councilors and the mayor sometimes might have been less amused. 

But then he made an interesting final point: "People don't realize 90 percent of the time we agree. It's the other times that make it more fun."

Thanks for your service, councilor. And be sure to stay in touch. (mm)

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