Capitol Christmas tree completes its journey to DC
© Bonnie Cash

The Capitol Christmas tree, which arrived in Washington, D.C., on Friday, is not the first selected from the state of Colorado, but its journey was a “once in a lifetime” experience for professional truck driver Theron Schmalzried.

“I never, never, ever expected to do anything like this,” Schmalzried, who has worked for Apex Transportation for 42 years, tells The Hill. “My boss asked me if I would do it, and I thought he was joking with me.”

The Capitol Christmas tree has been an annual tradition since 1964, when then-Speaker John McCormack (D-Mass.) suggested that one be planted on the West Front Lawn of the Capitol to join the White House in celebrating the Christmas holiday season.

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After more than a year of scouting, the U.S. Forest Service selected this year’s tree, an Engelmann Spruce, from the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the 2,000-mile trip to D.C. was filled with lines of people at community events and on the highway eager to see the tree.

The 55-foot-tall tree, decorated with 10,000 handmade ornaments from Coloradans, visited 10 communities across the country that had the opportunity to decorate the delivery truck with signed banners.

“It was really surprising to see how many people were tracking the tree and stopping to see it as the tree passed through,” says Schmalzried, who became a bit of a traveling attraction himself, posing for photos with well-wishers and speaking with a couple of women who wanted to talk about their experiences as truck drivers.

He says he wasn’t used to all the attention, with most of his work typically done by himself in oil fields, and the journey brought him a special feeling because he was able to bring happy moments to a few people amid a tough year.

“I feel honored,” Schmalzried says.