BEMIDJI -- The spirit of hope encircled a group of strategists gathered Tuesday afternoon at the Bemidji City Hall council chambers. They hope the community will band together to send the Capitol Christmas Tree off to Washington, D.C. in true Minnesota nice fashion -- with a celebration.
Every year a tree is selected from one of the forests on federal land. This will be the second time since 1970 that a tree has travelled to D.C. from Minnesota. In 1992, a 62-foot white spruce, was selected from the Chippewa National Forest through the "Tree to D.C." project. The 2014 tree will come from Chippewa as well.
Bemidji was selected as the first city the tree will be displayed in during the 2014 tour.
On Oct. 29, the selected 80-foot white spruce will be cut down at a location that has not yet been released by the U.S. Forest Service. From the forest, the 2014 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree will travel to BSU in Bemidji where it will be wrapped and readied for the 2,000 mile ride to D.C.
This year's 80-foot white spruce will travel to Itasca State Park first and then to Bemidji on Sunday, Nov. 2. There are approximately 30 stops in Minnesota before the white spruce will reach it's destination on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol.
Tuesday's Capitol Christmas Tree planning group included Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht, Bemidji Police Captain Jim Marcotte, Bemidji City Clerk Kay Murphy and representatives from the U.S. Forest Service, BSU, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.
"My thought was we were going to have a parade down Bemidji Avenue," Albrecht said.
Erin Messer with the Bemidji Chamber of Commerce acted as meeting organizer. The celebration can be planned throughout the city of Bemidji, Messer said.
It was decided an escort will be provided for the tree as it makes its way down Bemidji Avenue rather than a full on parade as not to compete with the annual First City of Lights parade during the Night We Light celebration. The escort is anticipated to include timber products and the forestry industry as well as community supporters.
The group would like to have the Capitol Christmas Tree stop at Paul and Babe on the waterfront for the two hours it is slated to be in the city. However, the Minnesota Department of Transportation has to approve closing the street during the tree's visit before those plans can be confirmed. The tree is planned to be on display from 2-4 p.m.
"We need some people to really come up and champion this for us because not one or two people can pull an event like this together," Messer said. "We need some help throughout the entire community."
The group needs help recruiting community bands, sports teams and mascots. Appearances by Paul Bunyan, Smokey Bear and Bucky Beaver are anticipated.
Murphy stepped up to bring in the First City Bell Ringers and Albrecht will corral the Voyageurs Harmony Singers. Becky Dean with the Girl Scouts is cooking up a Christmas tree cookie decorating activity.
Ryan White, with the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, is working on recruiting drummers and dancers to be part of the city's celebration. The Leech Lake reservation shares borders with the Chippewa National Forest.
A send-off for the 2014 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree is planned for 3:45 to 4:15 p.m. on Nov. 2 when the tree will depart Bemidji for Walker. The group is also working on a more catchy, social media friendly, phrase than what the U.S. Forest Service uses, "U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree."
Seventy companion trees will be provided by the Minnesota Tree Growers Association to decorate the interior of the U.S. Capitol building and other sites in D.C. Ornaments, 10,000 to signify a gift from the Land of 10,000 Lakes, will also make the journey to the Capitol. Ornaments must be between 9 to 12 inches tall and be received by the ornament coordinator, Lynn Dee Stangel, by Oct. 1. Stangel can be reached at (218) 335-8640 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
People who want to help plan the Capitol Christmas Tree celebration can email email@example.com or attend the next planning meeting scheduled for Sept. 30 at 3:30 p.m. at Bemidji City Hall, 317 4th Street NW. Additional information on the Capitol Christmas Tree can be found at www.capitolchristmastree.com.