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U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree festivities in Pagosa Saturday

On Saturday, Nov. 10, the U.S. Forest Service, with help from its nonprofit partner, Choose Outdoors, will bring the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree to Pagosa Springs, and invites all people young and old to come celebrate this annual holiday tradition.

On Nov. 2, the 2012 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree was harvested in the White River National Forest, near Meeker, Colo. The tree was then wrapped and it has started the long transportation trek to Washington, D.C. on a custom-decorated Mack Pinnacle model truck, which will be driven by former U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell.

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree will be on display Nov. 10 on the frontage road next to the San Juan Motel at 191 San Juan St. beginning at 8:30 a.m. for approximately one hour. This stop will be one of approximately 40 stops along the tree’s 23-day tour across Colorado and the country on its way to the nation’s capital. All festivities with the tree are open to the public and free for all to enjoy.

As the tree travels the country, it will carry a message about sustainable forestry as well as invite people to assist with raising funds for the Forest Restoration Challenge. This challenge was set up to help areas impacted by the massive wildfires which devastated areas near Colorado Springs and Fort Collins in the spring of 2012. Those interested in donating can text any dollar amount to (303) 502-5858 then donors will then be asked for some basic information to complete the donation.

Festivities being held while the tree is in town will include visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus, complimentary hot beverages and breakfast goodies, music by DJ Dude, and the Girl Scouts will also be on hand. The tree will be escorted into town by local law enforcement agencies as well as the motorcycle enthusiasts from the Veterans for Veterans group. There will also be presentations by local officials and the major sponsors. Spectators are encouraged to bring their holiday bells so that as the tree arrives at the designated viewing location, they can “ring” in this special display. There will also have some commemorative bells for the children.

“We are honored that the Capitol Christmas Tree committee selected Pagosa Springs as one of the stops along the route to the U.S. Capitol. We will send special thanks from Pagosa Springs to Washington as well as communicate our community’s commitment to preserving our National Forests, watersheds and great outdoors, which plays a huge role in all our lives,” said Mary Jo Coulehan, executive director of the Pagosa Springs Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center.

“We’re working with city officials and volunteers across the country to make the 2012 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree tour an unforgettable experience of both giving back and celebrating the holiday season,” said Bruce Ward, founder of Choose Outdoors.

Upon arrival in Washington, D.C., the tree will be placed on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol and decorated with more than 5,000 ornaments handmade by Colorado children depicting the tree’s theme, “Celebrating the Great Outdoors.” In early December, a tree lighting ceremony will take place and will be available for public viewing throughout the holiday season.

Costs associated with the tree’s transportation and tour events are made possible by contributions by individuals, corporations and local communities. Major sponsors include the Colorado Tourism Office, Mack Trucks, Gibson Guitars and The National Association of Convenience Stores.

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