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From Wild and Wonderful West Virginia to Washington, D.C.: The Journey of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree

The iconic U.S. Capitol Christmas tree recently completed its annual journey from one of the nation’s cherished National Forests to the West lawn of the Capitol. This year’s spruce was specially chosen from West Virginia’s Monongahela National Forest and its arrival designated the official start of the holiday season in Washington, D.C.

For the second year in a row, Truckstop proudly sponsored the tree’s journey and its drivers, Werner Enterprises. Werner was selected for this special mission at the recommendation of Kenworth Trucking Company, along with their long-standing industry reputation.  

“We are honored to be part of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree initiative again this year,” said Kendra Tucker, chief executive officer of Truckstop. “Supporting our customer Werner Enterprises as they transport a seasonal symbol to our nation’s capital aligns with our mission to empower carriers with real-time data for informed decision-making to move freight efficiently in a high-trust marketplace.” 

Werner truck

Symbolism and Significance of the Capitol Christmas Tree

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, known as the “People’s Tree,” has been provided by the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service since 1970. The national partnership celebrates the spirit of the season and the great outdoors.

This year was the third time West Virginia had the honor of providing the tree. Due to the area’s immense beauty consisting of rugged terrain and rambling rivers, West Virginia perfectly encompassed the 2023 theme of “Endlessly Wild & Wonderful.”

The tree, named “wa’feem’tekwi” by the Shawnee Tribe, means “bright tree” in Shawnee. The tribe also provided handmade ornaments along with educational materials for the celebratory stops along the way. 

After being harvested on November 1st, the tree was prepped for three days before it made its way to the first stop in Elkins, West Virginia. There, the tree, its drivers, and the National Forest Service were enthusiastically greeted by the local community as the official trip got underway.

“We are honored that the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree will kick off its journey to Washington, D.C. from Elkins,” Elkins Mayor Jerry Marco said. “Our community looks forward to being a part of this gift to the nation and the joy it will bring to our community this holiday.”

Capital tree freshly cut on truck. Driver in front of truck.

Festive Stops with Long-Lasting Memories 

The 2023 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree tour included 14 stops between Elkins, West Virginia and Washington, D.C. Local communities at each celebrated the 63-foot Norway spruce’s arrival by hosting special events and an opportunity to learn about Monongahela National Forest.

person signing truck tarp.

The tour schedule included:

  • Elkins, West Virginia
  • Summersville, West Virginia
  • Marlinton, West Viginia
  • Beckley, West Virginia
  • Charleston, West Virginia
  • Morgantown, West Virginia
  • Upper Tract, West Virginia
  • Davis, West Virginia
  • Romney, West Virginia
  • Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
  • Joint Base Andrews, Maryland
  • Washington, DC

The tree was safely delivered to the U.S. Capitol Building on November 17th. There, employees of the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) worked to carefully secure and decorate the tree with thousands of handcrafted ornaments provided lovingly by the people of West Virginia.

Careful Planning and Navigation

The Werner Enterprises team selected for this year’s haul was comprised of award-winning drivers who were excited to be part of this once-in-a-lifetime event.

“The professional drivers entrusted with this prestigious project are highly skilled and embody our core values of safety, service, and leadership. They will do an exceptional job carrying out this unique project and tribute to our country.” CEO, Derek Leathers.

Jesus Davila and Tim Dean standing with child in front of truck

Jesus Davila and Tim Dean had the honor of transporting the Capitol Christmas Tree. And husband and wife team, Steve and Gina Jones, were tasked with delivering 84 companion trees and over ten thousand handmade ornaments.

Although friends before the trip, Jesus and Tim quickly realized the experience strengthened their professional partnership. They had to rely on each other as they navigated from the mountainous roads of West Virginia to the narrow streets of Washington, D.C.

“You know, it’s just one of those moments where you had all the anxiety and nervousness of picking up the tree and now you have the anxiety of finally getting it done and off the trailer, and basically the load is delivered. So it was a good moment and a good feeling.” Jesus Davila

Werner truck on rural route.

For husband and wife team, Steve and Gina, the lack of police escort made the trek to D.C. more challenging than they expected. They didn’t have an official route, just locations and times to arrive. Careful planning was essential for a successful trip.

“What wasn’t on my planning was all the construction and the lack of allowable returns in D.C. And unlike where we live, there’s no parking garages. So the residential neighborhoods we were going down had cars parked on both sides. We were taking up the entire middle. When we left the coal yard, which is where we delivered all the ornaments for the Christmas tree, I asked for what’s the best way to get out of here? And I got three different guys pointing three different directions. So we were left to our own devices, and we just took our time and did it safely.” Steve Jones

Steve and Gina Jones

Magical Memories and Holiday Cheer

Thanks to the dedicated team at Werner Enterprises, this year’s tree will be lit from dusk to 11 PM through January 1, 2024. And like every year before, the tree’s story, and those that fearlessly transported it, remains unique and special during this magical time of year.

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