December 3, 2019

Holiday Kids' Tree Brightens Capitol

By: Andrew Lenderman   Comments: 0
The Holiday Kids' Tree arrived Tuesday and was secured in the Capitol rotunda through a partnership between AWB and the Washington State Department of Enterprise Services. (Photo: Andrew Lenderman/AWB)

OLYMPIA -- Today's assignment: Visit one of the most beautiful Capitol campuses in America, and watch a 34-foot Noble fir tree come through the front doors.

That's what home schoolers Emma and Robby Chatwood did Tuesday morning. They watched from the second-floor balcony with their grandmother, Jan Nelson, as a few dozen state workers heaved the tree up two flights of steps and into the rotunda.

"I thought it was pretty cool," 5th-grader Robby Chatwood said. Nelson and the children toured the Capitol afterwards.

The tree's arrival marks the arrival of the holiday season for AWB and the Capitol community. The work to find, harvest, transport, coordinate and decorate the tree takes significant coordination between AWB and the state Department of Enterprise Services.

This year's tree comes from the Vail Tree Farm, and was donated by Weyerhaeuser. It arrived by truck this morning under a cloudy December sky.

A crane moved it off the truck to a platform where workers trimmed the base with a chainsaw. After that, the crew loaded it up on 4 by-4-inch beams, hauled it up the steps and pushed it through doors lined with plastic for a smoother entry. About 30 state workers helped in various capacities.

Tuesday afternoon, a state crew led by Master Carpenter Wes Cline pulled the tree into position, using ropes from all corners of the Capitol balconies. Cline and his colleague Keith Peterson shouted commands to the crew above: "This way! Over here!"

Crews raise the 34-foot Noble fir tree into position with ropes and commands that echo off the Capitol walls. (Photo: Andrew Lenderman/AWB)

The tree eventually landed in its base, to cheers that echoed off the marble walls.

About that holiday tree base: It's likely one of the sturdiest in Washington. This custom hardware sits on an 8 by 8-foot lumber base. The legs of the stand are 3/8-inch steel, and the round cylinder where the tree trunk sits is made of 1/4-inch steel. Cline said it was specially designed to hold the Holiday Kids' Tree.

The top of the tree was decorated with plush toys, replicas of classic board games and even a Rubik's Cube, before it was raised into position. The decorations were provided by AWB. They had an exciting ride to the top of the rotunda as crews pulled the tree into place. After it was all over, a stuffed Dumbo peeked out from the branches, and looked relieved that it was finished.

All of the work is in preparation for the official tree lighting ceremony at 6 p.m. Friday. All are welcome as AWB President Kris Johnson and Gov. Jay Inslee take part in the annual tradition that raises money to help rural families in need.

The program will include cookies, good cheer and musical interludes from the Washington Middle School choir. And the highlight of the night —10-year-old Jayden Nelson of Lewis County will flip the switch on this year's lights. She's a "change maker" who has made an extra effort to raise money for Mary Bridge Children's Hospital, one dollar at a time.

We'll see you at the Capitol.

This stuffed Dumbo plush toy is among the many decorations donated by AWB for this year's Holiday Kids' Tree. The decorations will be donated to local children's hospitals after the tree is taken down in January. (Photo: Andrew Lenderman/AWB)

Robby Chatwood, left, Jan Nelson and Emma Chatwood stopped by the Capitol Tuesday to check out the arrival of the tree.