Oregon’s Willamette National Forest tree takes center stage in Washington, D.C. at the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

Oregon Christmas Tree visits The Dalles on November 14, 2018. Photo Courtesy Michael Leash
Left: House Speaker Paul Ryan and Hillsboro fourth-grader Brigette Harrington, who earned the trip to the capitol and the honor of lighting the tree as the winner of a statewide essay contest. Right: The tree decorated with 10,000 handmade ornaments by people across Oregon
The 80-foot noble fir lights up the capitol

Portland, Ore. (December 6, 2018) – Oregon and its natural beauty were in the national spotlight this evening during the 2018 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at the U.S. Capitol West Lawn. The 80-foot noble fir from the Willamette National Forest was officially lit for the first time by Hillsboro, Ore., student Brigette Harrington, winner of Governor Kate Brown’s “Find Your Trail” essay contest for fourth-graders, together with Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Paul Ryan.


This public event marks the culmination of Oregon’s yearlong U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree project that highlighted Oregon’s natural beauty, public lands and the Oregon Trail. The project kicked off in January 2018 in Sweet Home, Ore., with the announcement that the Willamette National Forest had been selected to provide the 2018 “People’s Tree.” Travel Oregon and non-profit Choose Outdoors served as major project partners, with generous support from presenting sponsor, The Papé Group.


Giving remarks at the U.S Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony were U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, and U.S Rep. Peter DeFazio. Other notable Oregonians in attendance included Pacific Northwest Regional Forester Glen Casamassa; Travel Oregon CEO Todd Davidson; Willamette National Forest Supervisor Tracy Beck; Sweet Home District Ranger and 2018 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree project lead Nikki Swanson; Linn County Commissioner Will Tucker; Sweet Home, Ore., Mayor Greg Mahler; and the entire 2018 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Forest Service team, many of whom accompanied the tree on its reverse Oregon Trail journey to Washington, D.C.


Speakers at the tree lighting also included Paul Ryan, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives; Christine Merdon, Acting Architect of the Capitol and Chief Operating Officer; and Donald G. Carlson, Chairman, U.S. Capitol Historical Society Board of Trustees, who presented the U.S. Capitol Historical Society 2018 Ornament. The event was accompanied by holiday music from the U.S. Navy Band.


Adorning the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree are 10,000 ornaments that were handcrafted by Oregonians across the state, including students, church groups and senior citizens throughout the year. In addition, 73 smaller companion trees from Oregon have been placed in government buildings and public spaces.


“We’re so very proud to have our beautiful Willamette National Forest noble fir at the U.S. Capitol for all to admire and enjoy,” said Nikki Swanson, Sweet Home District Ranger and 2018 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree project lead. “This has been an incredible journey for all of us at the Willamette National Forest, and we’re so grateful to all of the Oregonians who have embraced this yearlong campaign. This includes those who submitted trees to be considered, the more than 60 sponsors who provided cash and in-kind contributions, the 1,200 fourth-graders who participated in the essay contest to light the tree, everyone who took part in the ornament search in the Willamette National Forest, all those who contributed ornaments, and finally, everyone in towns along the Oregon Trail who came to celebrate the tree and sign the truck. This tree truly represents all Oregonians, and is the perfect symbol of all the natural beauty we have to offerin our great state.”


“To many around the country and the world, Oregon represents a magical, natural wonderland, with the majestic fir tree as one of its icons,” said Todd Davidson, CEO of Travel Oregon. “We’re thrilled to be able to share a piece of Oregon with the Capitol and all Americans through this tree, and love that so many proud Oregonians were able to be at tonight’s ceremony, both in person and – through the thousands of ornaments – in spirit. We welcome our fellow Americans to come discover our National Forests and other natural wonders in person in the New Year.”

About the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree dates backs to 1964 when Architect of the Capitol J. George Stewart, at the suggestion of Speaker of the House John W. McCormack, established the yearly tradition of decorating a tree on the West Lawn. Since 1970, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service has provided the tree. Also known as the “People’s Tree,” it symbolizes hope and the holiday spirit, and is an annual reminder of the beauty found in our National Forests.www.capitolchristmastree.com#USCapitolChristmasTree #FindYourTrail


About the Willamette National Forest, Oregon
With more than 1.5 million acres, the beautiful Willamette National Forest is home to eight wilderness areas—including the popular Three Sisters and Mt. Jefferson Wildernesses—and has over 1,700 miles of trails for hiking, backpacking, mountain biking and horseback riding. The varied landscapes of the high mountains, coastal rainforests, narrow canyons, and cascading streams offer visitors excellent opportunities to play and explore. We encourage people to use the #FindYourTrail hashtag as they explore trails and other areas of their local National Forest.


Sweet Home, Ore., is often referred to as the “Gateway to the Santiam Playground” due to its proximity to the Sweet Home Ranger District on the Willamette National Forest and its trails, lakes, rivers and mountains.


About Travel Oregon
The Oregon Tourism Commission, dba Travel Oregon, works to enhance visitors’ experiences by providing information, resources and trip planning tools that inspire travel and consistently convey the exceptional quality of Oregon. The commission aims to improve Oregonians’ quality of life by strengthening the economic impacts of the state’s $11.8 billion tourism industry that employs more than 112,000 Oregonians. Visit TravelOregon.comto learn more.


About Choose Outdoors

Choose Outdoors works to increase all American’s enjoyment, appreciation and support for outdoor recreation activities that connect them to our public lands. These connections will ensure that our public lands will always be there for future generations to cherish. www.chooseoutdoors.org.


About The Papé Group, Inc. 

The Papé Group, Inc., headquartered in Eugene, Ore., represents a full line of capital equipment sales, parts, service, finance, and rental throughout nine western states. Papé Material Handling, Inc.; Papé Kenworth; Papé Machinery, Inc.; Ditch Witch West, A Papé Company; and Engineered Products, A Papé Company serve customers in the material handling, transportation, agriculture, turf, forestry, construction, trenching, and warehousing industries. For more information about The Papé Group, Inc., visit www.pape.com.