From the Mountains to the Sea: Truckstop Sponsors the Journey of the 2022 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree
The U.S. Capitol Christmas tree has become an iconic symbol of the holidays. The official tree lighting ceremony has become a cherished tradition that brings people from across the country together to celebrate the start of the holiday season.
Truckstop was proud to support the 2022 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree program along with this year’s chosen tree hauler, and Truckstop customer, Hardy Brothers Inc. throughout the 14-stop journey to the U.S. capitol and back home to Siloam, North Carolina.
“We are incredibly honored to be a part of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree initiative, which provides the opportunity to celebrate the spirit of the season and the hard work of so many program volunteers both locally and nationally,” said Kendra Tucker, chief executive officer, Truckstop. “The opportunity to support Hardy Brothers, Inc. as they haul one of the most iconic symbols of the season to our nation’s Capital is humbling and a testament to our core mission, which is to empower our customers with vital solutions to keep their business moving and improve their bottom line.”
History of the Capitol Christmas Tree
The tradition of the Capitol Christmas Tree, or “The People’s Tree,” began in 1964 when House Speaker John W. McCormack had a 24-foot Douglas fir from Birdsboro, Pennsylvania transported to the U.S. Capitol grounds. The tree was planted on the West Front lawn and for the next three years, it was decorated and lit at an official tree-lighting ceremony to represent the start of the Christmas season.
Severe weather caused the tree to die in 1968 and that year, the Christmas tree was made of two white pines from Finksburg, Maryland. In 1969, the official tree was transported to the U.S. Capitol from Westminster, Maryland.
From 1970 on, the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service has provided a tree as part of an initiative to bring together USDA Forest Service staff and communities throughout the country. The national partnership celebrates the spirit of the season and the great outdoors.
2022 Christmas Tree Tour
The National Forests in North Carolina were chosen to provide this year’s U.S. Capitol Christmas tree. On November 5, 2022, after almost a year of planning, a 78-foot red spruce known as “Ruby” was harvested from Pisgah National Forest in a virtual ceremony. The tree was then carefully placed on a flatbed trailer to be transported by a specially decaled Kenworth T680 driven by Ed Kingson Jr. And Deb Kingson of the North Carolina-based carrier, Hardy Brothers Trucking.
“This annual journey is only possible with the help of strong community partnerships throughout North Carolina and beyond state lines,” said Bruce Ward, president of Choose Outdoors, the non-profit partner that supports the USDA Forest Service on the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree initiative. “We’re grateful for the time and resources provided by Kenworth and Hardy Brothers Trucking. We look forward to a great tour.”
The 2022 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree tour included 14 stops between Fletcher, North Carolina and Washington, DC, with community celebrations along the way.
The tour included:
- Murphy, North Carolina
- Cherokee, North Carolina
- Pisgah Forest, North Carolina
- Marion, North Carolina
- Newton, North Carolina
- Mount Airy, North Carolina
- Troy, North Carolina
- Asheboro, North Carolina
- Kinston, North Carolina
- New Bern, North Carolina
- Manteo, North Carolina
- Suffolk, North Carolina
- North Chesterfield, Virginia
- Joint Base Andrews, Maryland
- Washington, DC
The tree was delivered to the U.S. Capitol Building on Nov. 18, 2022, in preparation for the official lighting ceremony on November 29, 2022.
Embracing the Challenges of the Trip
For this year’s haul, Hardy Brothers Trucking was selected by Kenworth, a sponsor of the event, to be the official U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Tour carrier. The company chose Ed and Deb Kingdon, who had been driving for more than four years, due to their ability to be able to be on the road for three weeks to complete the journey.
What allured the Kingdon’s, and Hardy Brothers Trucking, to this opportunity was the excitement of the unknown challenge they would face along the way. They knew they were about to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but neither could anticipate what a journey like this would mean to them personally. And that was what made the trek most exciting.
“When I retired from the military in 2018, Deb and I decided to begin careers in something we could do together since our kids were grown,” said Ed. “We love to travel the country and saw truck driving as a job we’d enjoy. Never in our wildest dreams did we think we’d be the ones responsible for delivering the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree to D.C. Christmas is such a special holiday to our family, so to have shared this experience with our kids and grandkids who visited the community celebrations as we made our way to the capital was truly memorable.”
Once the 78-spruce was loaded with the help of the arborist and the National Forest Service, the real challenge began. The Kingson’s had to navigate the 100-foot-long vehicle through the mountainous terrain.
“It was a challenge at first getting comfortable with understanding how much room you need to maneuver such a long truck-trailer combination, especially in the small towns we visited, but we learned quickly,” said Ed. “We mapped out our route ahead of time and the state patrol who escorted us along the way helped us out a lot.”
Unexpected Connections Along the Way
For Ed and Deb Kingdon, the opportunity to meet and celebrate with the local communities was the real thrill of the trip. They were greeted by families and the Forest Service at each stop, eager to celebrate the tree’s arrival.
Ed, a retired US Air Force veteran, said his most memorable stop was at a veteran’s home in Kinston, NC. In addition to visiting fellow veterans, he met a former Marine whom he won’t forget. Prior to the tree’s arrival, the gentleman hadn’t left his hospital room in two years. However, when the tree pulled into town, he requested to see it up close and meet the drivers. It was at that time; Ed realized the magnitude of his trip went far beyond just transporting the tree.
“It was really heartwarming to see that kind of impact for somebody to want to come out and what a joy it was to visit with him during that time.”
For her part, Deb Kingdon made a historical mark by becoming the first female drive to transport a tree to the Capitol. While she didn’t realize it at first, one special stop along the way made her realize just how impactful the drive was for her, and for other women.
At one stop, a petite and very feisty woman in her nineties was eagerly waiting to meet Deb. The woman told Deb that her dream had always been to take a drive in an 18-Wheeler and that she admired Deb’s accomplishment. While the woman couldn’t take a drive, she did sit inside the Kenworth truck and take pictures, grinning from ear to ear with excitement.
“It was an honor to be selected as one of the drivers and become the first woman driver to haul the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree,” said Deb. ““It was really a very personal thing and was an experience of a lifetime.”
An Unforgettable Journey
Taking part in this year’s tree transport was an extra special experience for all involved. It forged connections and relationships that will extend beyond the season—and memories that will last a lifetime.
The chance to transport “The People’s Tree” was one Hardy Brothers Trucking won’t soon forget. “It was a unique opportunity and something that will be a treasure for us forever.” said Dale Norman, Director of Sales and Marketing. “Taking Ruby was a wonderful experience to be part of and we would love to participate again.”