BILLINGS – Christmas came early this year for one Billings trucking company that learned it has the honor of transporting the Capitol Christmas tree to Washington D.C.

Whitewood Transport will collect the tree from Eureka after it’s cut down from the Kootenai National Forest and haul it to D.C.

“There are 3.5 million trucks out there and we’re the only one hauling the Christmas tree, so it’s a pretty big deal,” said Whitewood Transport Owner Mike Wilson.

The truck, a Kenworth T-680 Advantage, will leave Eureka with the 70-foot-tall tree on Nov. 8 and make the more than 2,300 mile journey to the Capitol.

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Wilson said the tree is in very capable hands. He said the driver of the truck, Larry Spiekermeier, has traveled over 1.6 million miles without an incident.

Wilson said the tree will be surrounded by water tanks, allowing it to drink up water during the journey.

But before the tree arrives in Washington, there will be a number of celebrations across the states along the way.

The truck will make several stops during the journey – including Montana towns- Whitefish, Missoula, Helena, Great Falls and Glasgow – allowing people across the country to sign the wrapping on the truck. There will also be stops in North Dakota, Kentucky and West Virginia, said Wilson.

“This is the people’s tree,” said Wilson. “We want to give everyone the chance to see this. And it’s not being funded by tax dollars. This is totally supported by local businesses.”

Whitewood is donating the time and miles required to transport the tree.

Wilson said he is incredibly proud that his company was selected for this unique opportunity.

“Part of our core values is to respect and support our community,” said Wilson. “And we do that through our gifts and services. What better way to do that than this, because our community reaches far beyond Billings and far beyond Montana because we’re a national carrier. We go all over the United States so it’s an honor to do this.”

The tree, along with 75 other companion trees, will be decorated with 8,000 ornaments. Several Montana communities are creating the handmade ornaments that will be transported to D.C. in pallets, according to Wilson.

The tree will be lit and stay lit until the first of the year.

The last time a tree was selected from the Kootenai National Forest was in 1989 and it was an Engelmann Spruce. The last time a tree came out of Montana was 2008.

MTN’s Aja Goare