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U.S. Capitol Christmas tree to be lit Wednesday

The lighting ceremony of the Engelmann spruce from Colorado will be held Wednesday at the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building.

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — A lighting ceremony for the 2020 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree from western Colorado was Wednesday, Dec. 2 in Washington, D.C.

The 55-foot tall, 25-foot wide tree from Colorado was decorated by crews for its lighting on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building.

The tree lighting ceremony was at 3 p.m. MT Wednesday with the U.S. Speaker of the House, Architect of the Capitol, U.S. Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen and members of the Colorado Congressional Delegation.

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>> Watch the full ceremony:

The Engelmann spruce was harvested from the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forests near Delta on Nov. 5. On its trip to the nation's capital, the tree made tour stops in Ouray, Grand Junction, Paonia, Gunnison, Salida, Denver, Burlington and North Carolina before arriving in the nation's capitol on Nov. 20.

A virtual cutting ceremony took place Nov. 5 at the GMUG National Forests. The ceremony included brief remarks by U.S. Forest Service leadership, local elected officials and project partners.

After being cut, the Engelmann spruce was lifted by cranes, wrapped and secured to a trailer to begin its journey to Washington, D.C.

Fans followed the tree's journey at CapitolTreeTracker.com.

The U.S. Forest Service said the U.S. Capitol Grounds and Arboretum team has spent nearly two weeks securing and decorating the tree with thousands of handcrafted ornaments from the people of Colorado.

Rocky Mountain PBS will air "America's Forests with Chuck Leavell: Capitol Christmas Tree Special" on Thursday, Dec. 17 at 8 p.m. to celebrate the tree's journey from Colorado to Washington, D.C.

> Watch below: Tree cutting ceremony near Delta

“I’m thrilled that one of Colorado’s magnificent Engelmann spruce is heading to Washington, D.C., to represent our state at the U.S. Capitol during the holidays this year,” said Colorado Gov. Jared Polis in July. “Coloradans are proud of our state’s natural beauty, forests, and incredible outdoor spaces, and I’m glad the rest of the country will be able to see a small piece of the majesty that Colorado offers. While this is a difficult time for people across our state and across the country, I hope that Colorado’s contribution to the national Christmas spirit can help bring us all together.”

Credit: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
The 2020 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree arrives on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020 in Washington.

“The challenge in selecting a tree for the West Lawn is making sure it is symmetrical, full and in the perfect scale to gracefully adorn the U.S. Capitol," said Jim Kaufmann, director of Capitol Grounds and Arboretum for the Architect of the Capitol in September. "In a normal year, we scour the forest for this special tree. Due to the pandemic, we used videos, pictures and measurements supplied by the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests to identify a suitable Engelmann Spruce that all Coloradoans can be proud of."

“This year’s tree selection was a little nonconventional, but we are very excited to have the tree selected and look forward to the next phase of the project, planning the tree cutting ceremony,” said Chad Stewart, supervisor of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison (GMUG) Forest.

“We sincerely hope the gift of this towering tree from Colorado for the Capitol lawn helps inspire deep pride in America the Beautiful and happiness throughout the holidays, while showcasing the splendor of Colorado’s Mountains and Mesas region," said Colorado Tourism Director Cathy Ritter.

Credit: U.S. Forest Service

The U.S. Capitol tree last came from western Colorado in 2012. That tree was a 73-foot Engelmann spruce from the White River National Forest, east of Meeker.

The 2019 U.S. Capitol Christmas tree was a 60-foot blue spruce cut from the Carson National Forest outside of Taos, New Mexico.

"We are just so excited and what a great honor for Colorado to be able to help the entire nation celebrate the holiday spirit," Polis said.

Learn more about the tree's history at USCapitolChristmasTree.com.

RELATED: Holiday Guide: Everything you need to know about celebrating the holidays in Colorado

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