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US Capitol Christmas Tree Lit By US House Speaker, Boise Schoolgirl

  • VOA News

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree is lit up during a ceremony on the West Front of the Capitol in Washington, Dec. 6, 2016.

The Capitol Christmas Tree, a 24-meter-high Engelmann spruce from Idaho, was lit on Tuesday afternoon on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

This year, the Capitol Christmas Tree, a tradition since 1964, was taken from Idaho's Payette National Forest near McCall.

The 84-year-old tree was cut November 2 and arrived in Washington on November 28.

The Capitol Christmas Tree is a nearly 80-foot Engelmann Spruce from the Payette National Forest in Idaho. It's pictured Dec. 6, 2016.
The Capitol Christmas Tree is a nearly 80-foot Engelmann Spruce from the Payette National Forest in Idaho. It's pictured Dec. 6, 2016.

The U.S. Air Force Band was on hand, playing Christmas carols as U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Isabella Gerard, 10, a fifth-grader from Boise, Idaho, lit the tree at a ceremony on a cold and drizzly afternoon.

Isabella was among about 200 Idaho schoolchildren who entered a contest to attend the lighting.

Senator Mike Crapo, who led the Idaho congressional delegation in sponsoring the tree, chose the fifth-grader for her poem "Pristine Idaho Mountains."

In a statement to the news site Roll Call, Idaho Senators Jim Risch and Crapo said, "We extend our gratitude to the countless individuals who made this a reality, particularly the Idaho students who hand-decorated thousands of Christmas ornaments, and the Payette National Forest officials who selected this year's tree and ensured its safe arrival in Washington."

In addition to 18,000 handmade ornaments, the tree is adorned with 9 kilograms of glitter and thousands of lights.

Idaho also sent nearly 70 other trees to be distributed to various congressional offices and federal agencies, according to the Idaho Statesman.

Sponsors paid the roughly $600,000 cost of moving the tree nearly 4,000 kilometers.

The tree will be lit up every night after nightfall until January 1. It will then be composted.

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