Montana’s Capitol Christmas Tree arrives in D.C.

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, cut down in the northwest corner of Montana, was delivered to the West Lawn of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Monday.

On Wednesday, Dec. 6, Bozeman sixth-grader Ridley Brandmayr will help Sen. Jon Tester, as the senior member of Montana’s congressional delegation, light the tree in an official ceremony.

Tester’s office sent out a press release on the event, complete with lots of photos of the tree-cutting ceremony at the Three Rivers Ranger District of the Kootenai National Forest near Yaak, and photos of the delivery of the 79-foot Engelmann spruce in Washington, D.C., on Monday.

The press release also included a video of Tester welcoming the tree to Washington. In the video, Tester said the truck was driven by a man whose first name was Larry and whose last name was so long he was afraid he’d screw it up if he tried to pronounce it. Tester said he met the driver in Great Falls and he was “one heck of a good guy.”

On the Kootenai National Forest website devoted to the Capitol tree, the truck driver was identified as Larry Spiekermeier, with Whitewood Transport in Plains, Mont. Pete Tallmadge, a logger from Troy, was chosen to fell the tree.

Spiekermeier, a two-time Montana Motor Carriers “driver of the year,” shepherded the towering spruce tree on a 3,500-mile journey from northwest Montana to Washington. The press release said Spiekermeier, who has made deliveries to every state but Hawaii, will celebrate 50 years on the road next year.

After he delivered the tree to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, it was promptly “unwrapped” and delivered to the Capitol grounds on Monday. The journey included stops in 13 cities across Montana.

Tester announced early last year that he had chosen Ridley Brandmayr of Bozeman to help him light the tree.

“Ridley has shown incredible strength, determination, perseverance, and passion,” Tester said at the time. “Ridley will represent Montana well and I look forward to celebrating this Christmas season with the Brandmayr family and every Montanan.”

Earlier last year, Ridley lost all the fingers on his right hand in an accident, but had  continued swimming and playing music. Tester, a former music teacher, lost three fingers on his left hand when he was a child.

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