Photo courtesy Carly Garrison

HELENA – Hundreds gathered at the State Capitol on Thursday to see this year’s US Capitol Christmas tree as it makes the 3,000-mile journey to Washington.

This year’s tree is a 79’ foot-tall Engelmann Spruce from the Kootenai National Forest and requires an 80’ foot long by 30’ foot wide trailer. The tree weighs approximately 15,000 pounds and requires an 80-gallon “bladder” to keep it hydrated on its trek.

The tree is completely enclosed on the truck with lights and ornaments already attached.

Residents who came out to see the tree had the chance to sign their name with other Montanans on the truck’s banners. The attendees were also treated to cookies, hot chocolate and Christmas carols sung by Helena High School choir students.

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Helena Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the event on Thursday and their Vice President Mike Mergenthaler said he couldn’t be happier to see the community’s support for the tree.

“It’s just a great turnout by the community and glad that so many people could make it out today,” said Mergenthaler, “We’re just proud and very privileged to be able to host this event today that honors the tree coming from Montana and going to our nation’s capital.”

The last time a tree was selected from Montana was in 2008. It was a fir tree from the Bitterroot.

Montana Governor Steve Bullock, Helena Mayor Jim Smith and Montana Attorney General Tim Fox spoke at the event and participated in the festivities.

“What a great way to kick off the holiday season,” said Fox, “To get Montana kids involved, you know there were 13,000 ornaments made by Montanans for this tree and for the eighty Christmas trees that we’re sending for federal agencies.”

The tree is expected to reach Washington by Dec. 6 where it will be lit by a Bozeman sixth grader who was selected by Montana’s US Senator Jon Tester. The liting will take place at the annual holiday ceremony.

The Helena stop was one of 15 community events across Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Missouri and Kentucky.

The next stop will be in Great Falls on Thursday night.

You can track the tree’s journey across America here.

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