TROY — The 79-foot-tall Engelmann spruce that will light up the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol this Christmas is located on the Three River Ranger District on the Kootenai National Forest.
On Tuesday, Nov. 7, people can view the tree during an open house from 2 to 4:30 p.m. before it is cut and sets off on a 3,000 mile journey to Washington, D.C.
The area, at the Upper Ford administrative site about 40 miles from Troy near the community of Yaak, will be closed on the day the tree is cut due to safety concerns.
Sen. Jon Tester, the state's senior senator, said Tuesday morning that he had selected Bozeman sixth-grader Ridley Brandmayr to flip the switch during the annual tree-lighting ceremony in Washington on Wednesday, Dec. 6.
Earlier this year, Brandmayr lost all of the fingers on his right hand in an accident. Despite that, he continued to swim and play music. A former music teacher, Tester lost three fingers on his left hand when he was a child.
“Ridley has shown incredible strength, determination, perseverance and passion,” Tester said. “Ridley will represent Montana well and I look forward to celebrating this Christmas season with the Brandmayr family and every Montanan.”
Brandmayr said he was grateful for the opportunity.
“I am honored that Sen. Tester reached out to me and I’m excited to represent Montana,” said the 11-year-old, who said he enjoys hunting, fishing, swimming and playing his cello.
Billings-based Whitewood Transport will provide the truck and driver to haul the tree east.
Forest Service law enforcement will provide round-the-clock security for the tree until it’s cut down.
Tuesday’s celebration begins at 2 p.m., with festivities including the Yaak School singers, speakers and photo opportunities with the tree and sawyer starting at 2:30 p.m. There will also be cookies, hot cocoa and ornaments for sale.
“Everything is clicking right along,” said Sandi Mason, the Kootenai National Forest’s Capitol Christmas Tree project leader. “We’re not really sure what kind of turnout we’ll have at the open house. If the weather turns off nice, there could be a good crowd, but if it turns nasty, there might not be so many. I do think people are genuinely interested.”
The tree’s scheduled stops in Montana are:
*Monday, Nov. 13, Eureka and Whitefish
*Tuesday, Nov. 14, Libby, Troy and Trout Creek
*Wednesday, Nov.15, Thompson Falls and Missoula
*Thursday, Nov. 16, Helena and Great Falls