LUFKIN, Texas (KTRE) - Lufkin has hosted lots of dignitaries over the years, but none that have stood 60 feet tall.
“It is a 60-foot blue spruce and it is 68 years old. It was cut from the Carson National Forest on Northern New Mexico,” shared U.S Forest Service spokesperson Ivan Knudsen about the 2019 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree that rolled onto Main Street.
It's route to Washington D.C. in a custom cargo rig is far from direct. The cross-country tour makes stops in over 25 communities along the way.
"The process started back in March of this year, so it's been a lengthy process to be considered,” explains director of the City of Lufkin’s convention services, Brant Lee. “We were able to describe our downtown and what we kind of can offer as a community."
The Lufkin High School drumline provided the enthusiastic spirit. The visitors did the rest.
Lufkin's East Texas welcome was a buy-in to what the U.S. Forest Service wants in their whistle-stop tour.
"It's nice to be able to see something that we usually see on tv," said Lufkinite Debi Read.
So special that some students got out of school to come to the hour stop, including Hudson's Junior American Citizens.
"This is an awesome group of kids out of Hudson Middle School and they work extra hard for the community and so why not celebrate with the community," said Hudson Middle School social studies teacher Brianna DiLorenzo.
Only the tip-top of the tree is visible through a plexiglass cargo window. The rest of the truck is reserved for Americans’ signatures.
Sharpies were handed out to anyone wanting to sign the truck. Finding a spot blank enough for a signature was difficult due to the previous 21 stops.
The capitol architect selects from several candidates of trees Perhaps someday an East Texas pine could be considered. After all, the region is home to four national forests.
Knudsen doesn’t see why not.
"And ultimately, they put a metal frame around the tree and they don't hang ornaments directly on the tree, so a pine tree would be just fine."
Representative Trent Ashby of Lufkin could use it in the next campaign.
"I would love an East Texas pine tree on the grounds of the United States Capitol Christmas tree, so maybe working together here in East Texas we could make that dream become a reality."
For now, a visit from the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree serves well to launch the holiday season.
After leaving Lufkin, the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree headed to Monroe, Louisiana. The 2019 National Christmas Tree Lighting will take place on December 5.
To follow the tree during the journey to Washington, D.C., visit www.capitoltreetracker.com.