The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

Lighting ceremony speakers extend some love to Sweet Home

 

December 12, 2018

VISITORS from Sweet Home gather around the Capitol Christmas Tree. From left are Chris Sorensen, Cassie Richey, Jared Richey, Ray Towry, Tiffany Morgan, Susan Coleman, Matt Coleman, Greg Mahler, Regan Eivers, Nikki Swanson, Joanie Schmidgall, Dave Trask, Stefanie Gatchell and Lance Gatchell.

"Let 'er rip," called out U.S. Speaker of the House as Oregon fourth-grader Bridgette Harring-ton turned on the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree lights last week, capping off the 3,000-mile trip of a noble fir from Sweet Home and its entourage.

"There is so much good, so much joy, so much compassion all around us," Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said in the moments leading up to the lighting, relating to the theme of the Christmas movie "It's a Wonderful Life." "But we often simply fail to see it. It is there, but it's hidden. All it needs is a few points of light."

Harrington, standing beside Ryan, recited her poem "'Twas the Month Before Christmas," which she wrote as part of a contest among Oregon children to win the honor of lighting the Capitol Christmas Tree, the "People's Tree."

Ryan counted down from five, and Harrington flipped the switch to light the tree.

Attendees at the ceremony heard from a line-up of speakers with Oregon ties.

"Oregonians do lots of things well, and what we do best is grow Christmas trees," said Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden during the ceremony. "And nobody does that better than Sweet Home. Sweet Home is a wonderful place for the holidays."

"So in this season, this season of joy, this season of reflection, let us join together in that spirit that unifies America, of lifting everyone up across our country together, and in so doing, let's each of us find our trail," said Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley. "Take care and merry Christmas."

"I'm proud to call Oregon home, and it's truly an honor to have our tree here as the national Christmas tree, to celebrate this special time of year, and I hope this tree inspires all of you here to go out and find your own trail," said Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio, who represents the Fourth Congressional District, which includes Sweet Home.

The lighting ceremony ended a week of events to celebrate Christmas and the Capitol Christmas tree and a journey that, reflecting the theme, "Find Your Own Trail," retraced the steps of the Oregon Trail.

On Monday, Dec. 3, Choose Outdoors kicked off the week with a reception honoring the Willamette National Forest and the partners who helped bring the tree out of the woods east of Sweet Home to the Capitol.

Among several recognizing the numerous partners, including the Papé Group, Pilot Flying J truck stops, SkyBitz truck tracking and Central Oregon Trucking, Choose Outdoors presented an "excellence award" to the Willamette National Forest and its employees.

Without the many partners, said U.S. Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen, "this Christmas gift to our nation would not happen."

It is a collective event that involves many partners and thousands of people of all ages and walks of life celebrating along the way, she said, telling the story of a little boy in Idaho who signed the Christmas tree banner as it came through his town and sent a letter urging his grandfather in St. Louis, Mo., to sign it as well. The man was able to find his grandson's signature when he signed the tree himself.

The rest of the nation and those who visit "will be able to enjoy a Christmas tree that belongs to all of them, to everyone in this nation. Its grace and strength are truly befitting of the word 'noble.'"

The tree was joined by 75 companion trees, which were placed in offices around the Capitol. At the bottom of each is a quilted skirt crafted by people around Oregon, many of them from Sweet Home.

"The quilted tree skirts – that represent all facets of life in Oregon, are amazing," Christiansen said.

"Thanks to the people of Sweet Home. You rallied like none have rallied. You are a shining example of our nation's selflessness and plain dedication to hard work. Thank you, very much."

Chuck Leavell, keyboardist for the Allman Brothers Band and the Rolling Stones, played music for the event. Harrington also sang and played violin.

Leavell said he has opened for numerous musicians in his life.

"This is the first time I've opened for a tree," he noted, as he launched into a performance of "Hey, Santa."

Choose Outdoors hosted a breakfast the next morning, with visits by Wyden and Merkley.

"I just wanted to say how proud I am of everybody in Sweet Home to do all of this incredible work to get here," Wyden said alluding to Sweet Home's send-off celebration for the tree. "I went to the Sweet Home Christmas tree parade in November. Thousands and thousands of people were there on an incredibly cold night, biggest parade in history."

Applauding the team from Willamette National Forest, which includes the Sweet Home Ranger District, one of the country's leading timber-producing national forests, Wyden said, "this tree is not just a testament to Sweet Home's history but also a reflection of our incredible natural resource. We consider our tree a reflection of who we are as Oregonians. We have in our DNA a love of being outdoors."

Reflecting the theme, Wyden said the Willamette National Forest has more than 1,700 miles of trails. "That connection that you have with the trail is really what the holidays are all about. That's why we are so proud to be able to kick off the holiday season with Sweet Home and Oregon sharing a special heritage with the nation.

"Sweet Home and the whole state of Oregon is just bursting with pride to see our tree center stage for the holiday season."

Merkley said the first time he was in Washington, D.C., was in 1976. The tradition began in 1970.

"To go down to that mall 42 years ago, see that gorgeous tree – and at that time they had reindeer that were there on the mall – I saw people coming from all over the country to see that tree be lit up, but I'm sure it was nothing as gorgeous as our Oregon noble fir is going to be."

"I am so honored and excited to be lighting this year's Capitol Christmas tree," Harrington said as she prepared to recite her poem. "And I'm so happy and excited that this year, it's the first noble fir to be standing on the Capitol's lawn."

"If that doesn't melt your heart, well then, maybe you don't have a heart," Merkley said following her recitation.

The celebration continued that afternoon at a reception hosted by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Jamie L. Whitten building.

The lighting ceremony on the Capitol's west lawn was delayed from Wednesday to Thursday in respect to President George H.W. Bush, whose state funeral was held Dec. 5 in the National Cathedral. The lighting ceremony was followed by a reception hosted by Wyden in the nearby U.S. Botanic Gardens, featuring food from Oregon celebrity chef Bonnie Moralis, Willamette Valley wines, beer from Des-chutes Brewery and music by We Three of McMinnville, who are set to release a new album, "We Three," featuring the single "Heaven's Not Too Far," on Dec. 14.

"We're now officially winding down this incredible week," Wyden said. "While we wind it down tonight, I know this week is not going to wind down in anybody's heart."

"We're showing off Oregon to the world," Christiansen said.

A QUILTED TREE SKIRT, made by Peggy Schroder of Sweet Home, decorates a Christmas tree in Rep. Peter DeFazio's office. FOR MORE PHOTOS, SEE OUR PHOTO GALLERY: https://www.sweethomenews.com/photos/12_11_2018

DeFazio said he is glad that finally someone realized that Ore-gon's forests are "the most spectacular."

"This whole opportunity has just been like a dream come true," Harrington said. "The tree coming from Oregon is just incredible."

Wyden praised the partners who helped bring the tree to Washington, D.C., among them the Papé family, who "in my view" are the "gold standard of looking for ways to help out our state."

Susie Papé of Eugene, speaking for the company, said her family, "like many Oregonians," traveled the Oregon Trail in the 1840s "to find opportunity and take on the challenge of expanding the United States to the Pacific."

"Now we are sharing our Ore-gon along the path that these pioneers took to reach our state. Let this year be a gift from all Oregon-ians that unites our nation in celebration, gratitude and reflect the roots each American puts down in the name of freedom, civility, opportunity and faith in one another."

 
 

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