Capitol Christmas tree arrives in Washington

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) After three weeks and 4,000 miles, the Capitol Christmas tree arrived in Washington from Idaho Monday morning.

On the back of an 80-foot trailer, Idaho's own Mountain gem arrived in our nation's capital, marking the beginning of the holiday season.

"It was a very patriotic experience for me," said Gary Amoth of Twin Falls, who drove the truck across the country, stopping in 31 cities and towns. His company, Gary Amoth Trucking, was selected to lead the cross-country journey.

"The tour of Idaho was very important to me," Amoth explained. "I was familiar with all those communities. The stops were fantastic, especially Twin Falls."

The tree, cut from the Payette National Forest near Little Ski Hill is a place that has a lot of meaning for Brian Harris, who works for the Payette National Forest.

"I've been with this tree longer than a lot of people because I grew up right there in McCaul," Harris said. "I skied there as a little kid with all of our friends. It's kind of a special tree to a lot of us."

Keith Lannon, also with the Payette National Forest, says selecting a tree that embodied the Christmas spirit was not an easy process.

"We were looking for 65-80 feet tall, and it had to be that iconic Christmas tree shape, good sized branches," Lannon said.

The tree is 26 feet wide and weighs about 16,500 pounds, but transporting it hasn't all been smooth sailing. On the first leg of the trip, an Idaho state trooper was injured in a crash while leading the motorcade.

"I mean it was our very first day of the tour. We had just left McCaul. So, it was kind of a little shocking," Harris said.

"You know everybody rallied around and felt really bad, but very fortunate that it wasn't more serious than it was," Amoth explained.

The journey, even with its challenges, brought unity to communities across the country.

"You know in times like these, it's great to see everybody come together for a common cause. In this case, it happened to be a Christmas tree," Harris said.

Lifting the 84-year-old tree onto the West lawn of the Capitol building is a process that takes all day to complete. The lighting ceremony will be Dec. 6. By that time the Englemann spruce will be decorated with thousands of handcrafted ornaments from communities across Idaho.