Holiday tree rises in the Capitol rotunda
A cheerful addition to the Capitol dome was set into place Monday morning as the state's holiday tree was brought to the rotunda and lifted into position. This is the 25th year of the AWB Holiday Kids’ Tree Project, which benefits children throughout rural Washington and culminates at AWB's holiday tree lighting ceremony on Dec. 6.
This year the project has raised more than $16,000, and since it was born in 1989 it has raised more than $315,000.
The formal tree lighting celebration on Friday, Dec. 6, at 6 p.m. will feature Air Force Reserve Master Sgt. Richard Maser, with his wife, Robin, and their daughter, Ava, as the tree lighters.
The 24-foot-tall tree was donated by Port Blakely Tree Farm, an AWB member. It was harvested on Nov. 15 by Dennis and Loretta Muller, who cut it and loaded it onto the trailer by themselves. The pair found the 16-year-old noble fir on a hillside above Morton and 3,000 feet above sea level. The long, harsh winter with heavy snow accumulations in this central Lewis County site likely contributed to the tree’s slender, compact form, making it a good fit for the Capitol rotunda.
The tree arrived on a pickup truck trailer early Monday morning and was on the floor being decorated by 8:30 a.m. The topmost LED lights and decorations, including stuffed Peter Pan and Buzz Lightyear dolls, were secured before the tree was lifted into place.
Scott Lindsey helped set up the Capitol tree for decades, and even after leaving state employment in 2008 he continues to come back each season to set up the tree.
“It kind of sets the mood for the season,” Lindsey said as he wired a foot-long snowflake to a bough. “I enjoy it.”
Lindsey led volunteers and state workers who worked from the rotunda floor and from the third floor balconies, holding ropes lashed to the tree. With a coordinated lift, they hauled the tree upright – and even a bit past upright, catching it as it tipped a bit too far. The sudden stop knocked a large, shiny ball ornament loose. It bounced twice before a worker nabbed it and set it aside to be refastened to the tree.
Throughout the day workers on scaffolds continued decorating the tree with snowflakes, lights and more Disney stuffed characters. AWB, which provided the plush toys, will individually wrap them with a Little Golden Book related to the story of each character and give them to patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital when the tree comes down on Dec. 30.
Casey George, executive receptionist for the governor’s office, brings her grandson each year for the tree lighting, but said the whole feeling of the Capitol changes the morning the tree – and its evergreen smell – arrives.
“It’s brings back everything – the nostalgia, childhood, everything,” she said as she snapped pictures of the tree and its ornaments.