GREAT FALLS – The Capitol Christmas Tree stopped at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls on Thursday evening while journeying to Washington D.C.

The Engelmann Spruce tree is from the Kootenai National Forest and is nearly 80 feet tall, 30 feet wide, and almost 15,000 pounds.

The tree is pre-lit with lights and decorated with 13,000 ornaments made in Montana.

Many people gathered at the Center where they joined in on Christmas carols, signed the trailer, and met the driver.

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There is an 80-gallon water tank that hydrates the tree throughout its journey.

According to U.S. Senator Jon Tester, the tree is a big deal for the state.

“It’s an incredible honor that this tree comes from the Kootenai National Forest,” he said. “This is the People’sTtree, the Capitol tree.”

Earlier Thursday, the tree made a stop in Helena at the Capitol Building.

On Friday, the tree will be stopping at the Fort Belknap Tourism Offices and Rest Area from 11 a.m. until noon. There will be hot cocoa, muffins, children presenting Christmas ornaments and prayer and honor songs by tribal elders. The tree is then scheduled to pass through Glasgow between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. as it continues its journey toward Washington D.C.

The last time a Montana tree was chosen was in 2008 – a Sub-Alpine Fir from the Bitterroot Forest.

The Capitol Christmas Tree website provides the following information:

The tradition of the Capitol Christmas Tree, or “The People’s Tree,” began in 1964 when Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John W. McCormack (D-MA) placed a live Christmas tree on the Capitol lawn. This tree lived three years before succumbing to wind and root damage.

In 1970, the Capitol Architect asked the U.S. Forest Service to provide a Christmas tree. Since then, a different national forest has been chosen each year to provide “The People’s Tree.” This national forest also works with state forests to provide companion trees that are smaller Christmas trees for offices in Washington, D.C.

Click here to track the tree on its journey.

MTN’s Elizabeth Transue