The 2023 “Peoples Tree” Is Harvested From the Mon Forest

On a very cold November morning and with a light snow falling, around 100 people, at least half of them US Forest Service personnel, gathered at the Laurel Fork Campground in Randolph County to watch as the 2023 US Capitol Christmas tree was harvested.  Known as the “People’s Tree” the 65-foot-tall Norway Spruce is destined to sit on the west lawn of the White House during this holiday season.  Here’s a little more information about the tree.

“My name is Kirk Piehler, I’m a staff officer for natural resources for the forest.  They aged the tree at probably between 35 and 40 years old, so it’s relatively young,” he said. “And it was planted about the same time as the first Capitol Christmas tree was harvested in the same county, relatively close to hear on the Greenbrier Ranger District.”

USDA Forest employees take a picture with the 2023 US Capitol Christmas tree before harvesting

After a photo op for all the forest personnel with the tree, one of the members climbed near the top of the tree to attach a line from one of two large cranes onsite.  Once that was secured, it was time to cut the tree.  Amy Albright, US Capitol Tree Project Manager, introduces the two men selected for the honor.

“We’re going to have a two-person team using a cross-cut saw this year,” she said. “So Ron Polgar is a long time employee on the Monongahela National Forest; he is an expert botanist and he has taught and certified many sawers here on the Monongahela.”

“Our second sawer is Arden Cogar, Jr. He is an attorney here in West Virginia and a world champion lumberjack from a family deeply rooted in timber and his father harvested the 1976 tree, so passing it down in the family.”

Once they were suited up, it took them a very short time to cut through the large trunk of the tree which seemed to float in the air as it was separated from the stump.  Another tether line from the second crane was attached to the trunk so that the tree could be turned horizontally in preparation for placing on the truck bed that will take it to Washington, D.C.

Monongahela National Forest Supervisor Shawn Cochran thanked all those who attended the harvest, as well as Senator’s Joe Manchin and Shelly Moore-Capito for their support of the program and the forest.  Cochran also had thanks for the Shawnee Tribe, who have partnered with the US Capitol Christmas Tree for decades.

“Also want to thank the Shawnee Tribe who has provided support through naming the tree “wa’feem’tekwi” which means ‘bright tree’ in the Shawnee language,” said Cochran. “They also sent handmade ornaments for the tree and contributed to the interpretive exhibit that will go on with the tree.  Once the tree has completed its mission, the tree’s wood will be milled and provided back to the tribe to be used on their ceremonial grounds in White Oak, Oklahoma.”

Erin Paden, from the Shawnee Tribe was also on hand to witness the harvest.

“Gavin and Amy contacted us in January or February about the project, “she said. “We have a long-standing relationship, government to government, and we’ve been working on it ever since. I’m here from northeast Oklahoma.  The Shawnee love this area, this is our homelands and they’re glad to be involved in anything going on in their homelands.”

On Saturday, November 4th, the 2023 US Capitol Christmas Tree begins a two-week state wide tour before arriving in Washington on November 17th.  Each stop will feature information about the tree, the Capitol Christmas Tree program, activities for children and an opportunity to sign a banner. Ethan Reese, a fourth grade student at Beverly Elementary school and winner of the 2023 US Capitol Christmas Tree Essay contest will have the honor of throwing the switch to light the tree to officially kick off the holiday season in Washington.

The schedule of tour events includes:

Saturday, Nov. 4, 6:00 p.m.– 8:00 p.m. Elkins Depot Welcome Center (315 Railroad Ave, Elkins, WV 26241)

Sunday, Nov. 5, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Summersville Arena and Conference Center (3 Armory Way, Summersville, WV 26651)

Monday, Nov. 6, 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Mitchell Chevrolet (400 8th St, Marlinton, WV 24954)

Tuesday, Nov. 7, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Tamarack Marketplace (One Tamarack Place, Beckley, WV 25801); 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. WV State Capitol Complex (1716 Kanawha Blvd E, Charleston, WV 25305)

Wednesday, Nov. 8, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Former ACF Industries Parking Lot (3rd Avenue between 22nd and 24th streets, Huntington, WV 25703)

Thursday, Nov. 9, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. White Palace at Wheeling Park (1801 National Road, Wheeling, WV 26003)

Friday, Nov. 10, 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. 84 Lumber (3208 Earl L. Core Road, Morgantown, WV 26508)

Saturday, Nov. 11, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Operation Welcome Home at Mylan Park (452 Mylan Park Lane, Morgantown, WV 26501); 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. West Virginia University at Downtown Morgantown (243 High St, Morgantown, WV 26505)

Sunday, Nov. 12, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Swilled Dog/Raymond’s Gymnastic Center (28 Industrial Park Road, Upper Tract, WV 26866)

Monday, Nov. 13, 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. DavisYard (533 William Avenue, Davis, WV 26260)

Tuesday, Nov. 14, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. WV Schools for the Deaf and the Blind (301 E Main St, Romney, WV 26757)

Wednesday, Nov. 15, 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Harpers Ferry Job Corps Center (146 Buffalo Dr, Harpers Ferry, WV 25425)

Thursday, Nov. 16, 4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. Joint Base Andrews (Base only)

Friday, Nov. 17, Delivery to West Lawn, U.S. Capitol Building

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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