National Christmas Tree grown in Warren County
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SHENANDOAH FARMS — A towering Colorado blue spruce that has been growing beside Howellsville Road in Warren County for the last 20 years will represent America this holiday season.
Donald Murray Sr. of 29 Walkers Farm Road said officials from the National Park Service and employees of Davey’s Tree Service in Chantilly dug up the approximately 30-foot-tall conifer Friday morning, loaded it by crane and hauled it to Washington, D.C.
“It is the National Christmas Tree,” Murray said.
The Park Service announced Friday that it would replant the tree today in Washington to beat the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy, expected to hit the Mid-Atlantic region early next week.
Murray’s tree will replace a blue spruce that died in May from transplant shock. That tree replaced one which had stood on the Ellipse — between the National Mall and White House — since 1978, but was destroyed by high winds in February 2011.
Murray said his blue spruce’s route to the Ellipse was a bit unusual.
More than 20 years ago, he planted four of the trees at the front of his yard along Howellsville Road, about two miles south of the Shenandoah Farms Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company station.
“We planted it when it was just a twig,” he said.
One tree died, but the other three flourished.
This year, he said, an employee of Davey’s Tree Service spotted the three conifers and contacted him about selling one to become the national tree.
Why was this particular tree chosen?
“It was the prettiest,” Murray said.
The tree was inspected by representatives of the Park Service during the summer, he said, and it was tested and checked for soil quality to determine its health.
Moving the tree required some heavy equipment.
A hole, estimated by Murray’s neighbor Guy McManamay to be about 10 feet square, was dug around the tree. Then planking was placed around the root ball, held together with metal straps.
Finally, a crane was brought in to lift it onto the flatbed truck that took it to Washington.
Murray made sure he was there for the loading. “I wouldn’t have missed it.”
He also won’t miss the formal tree-lighting ceremony on the Ellipse at 5 p.m. Dec. 6.
“They said they would make sure I would be there,” he said.
Anyone else who wants tickets to the event, which are free, must enter a lottery, which opened online at 10 a.m. Thursday and closes at 10 a.m. Monday.
The tree-lighting tradition began in 1923, when President Calvin Coolidge’s wife gave permission to erect a cut tree on the Ellipse. The annual Pageant of Peace at the lighting ceremony was initiated in 1954.
In 1973, a live blue spruce was planted to be National Christmas Tree, and one has been on the Ellipse ever since.