Balsam fir cut in Vermont for U.S. Capitol Christmas tree

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(Host) Well over a hundred people trekked into the Green Mountain National Forest in Somerset on Friday to witness the cutting of a 55-foot balsam fir. The tree will travel to Washington, D.C. to spend the Christmas season in front of the U.S. Capitol.

VPR’s Susan Keese was at the ceremony.

(Sound of sawing, and cheers)

(Keese) That’s the sound of the first ceremonial cut, with an old-fashioned two man saw and help from members of Vermont’s Special Olympics team. The job was eventually finished with a chainsaw.

The season’s first snow put in an appearance and an array of dignitaries gathered for the occasion – including Smokey the Bear, Olympic snowboard medalist Hannah Teetor and Governor Jim Douglas.

(Douglas) It’s a tree that will bring a piece of Vermont beauty to the national capitol. It will show America and visitors around the world the natural beauty that we cherish and we love.

(Keese) Retired Bennington County Forester Jim White has helped groom this stand of firs for this honor since 1980.

(White) If trees grow close together they lose their lower branches and they’re sparse and they’re not what we think of as a nice full Christmas tree. So we started cutting trees around the nice balsams that we had and letting them develop in sunshine to make full branches right to the ground and develop a tree like this.

(Keese) This is the fifth time Vermont has provided the nation’s capitol with a Christmas tree. This year’s tree will begin a ten-day journey to Washington on Monday, stopping at veteran’s homes and hospitals along the way.

For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese, in the Green Mountain National forest, in Somerset.

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