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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of November 12 - 18, 2003


How are thy leaves
so verdant!

Idaho donates Christmas tree
to nation’s Capitol

Express Staff Writer

Holy Christmas Tree! When the 73-year-old, 70-foot Englemann spruce—the Capitol Holiday Tree—was hauled into Ketchum, it was escorted by dozens of Harley Davidson riders in full leathers, including Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne.

Idaho’s Christmas gift to the nation had been cut last week along the Middle Fork of the Payette River in the Boise National Forest.

Once in front of Sturtevant’s, which donated its parking lot for the festivities, the long flatbed truck driven by Jack Sherwood of Jack Buell Trucking in St. Maries, was parked ready for the festivities.

Bob Nero, president of the Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors, Ketchum Mayor Ed Simon and Sun Valley Mayor Dave Wilson made short speeches, followed by words from Kempthorne. The Wood River High School choir entertained by singing carols. Nero’s three children presented a poster to the governor.

Sherwood, who normally hauls flatbed trailers for heavy equipment, said his employer is in the logging and timber industry primarily. The company donated the truck and Sherwood’s services for the entire trip east, as well as two additional trucks and drivers to take the Holiday Tree ornaments and 80 companion trees back east. After dropping off the tree in Washington, D.C., Sherwood will haul some of the support vehicles back to St. Maries, where he lives.

Other than the 53 stops the tree and support group will make in Idaho, they will stop on the trip across the country in Bozeman, Mont., Mitchell, S.D., Rochester, Minn., Rockford, Ill., Richmond, Ind., and Morgantown, W. Va.

The tree weighs 11,000 pounds and is 28 inches at its base. It is enclosed inside a wooden frame, which is itself enclosed in plastic wrapping. There is a watering system inside to keep the tree fresh.

Sherwood will drive to the stops in Southern Idaho, before relinquishing the wheel for a few days to another driver who’ll do the northern Idaho route.

"I’m going to spend a few days with my family and then rejoin them in Wallace, where I’ll take over driving to D.C.," he said. "My 13-year-old daughter got her first deer, but I still need to get mine."

Meanwhile, he said, "I’m just taking it all in. There was a grandmother in Nampa with her granddaughter, and they wanted to take a picture with the truck. The granddaughter had had two open heart surgeries and had one more coming up. It’s that kind of stuff that stands out."

Sherwood, who was keeping warm inside the cab of the truck while snow flurried around his windows, looked straight ahead as though he were still driving. "We’ve had a wonderful response. It’s Idaho history. It’s a kick."

The support team that will continue on the trip includes merchandisers who sell caps, T-shirts, key chains and even spruce saplings. Public affairs representatives are on for much of the trip, such as Casey O'Connell who is helping on the southern Idaho portion of the trip. The escort also includes Forest Service law enforcement officers, a safety officer and an incident commander, Dean Martens.

What, one wonders, does the latter do exactly while trailing a tree across country?

"I’m the one who kind of brings it all together. I kind of orchestrate," said Martens, who normally works at the Payette National Forest. "We’ve been working on it a year. It’s really coming together. We’re now making it happen."

Take a gander at what one day looks like for Sherwood, Martens and the rest of the support team: On Nov. 21 the tree brigade stops in Post Falls, Spirit Lake, Priest River and Sandpoint. There are festivities planned for every stop. Some of the support team will leave when they depart Idaho and others will join up.

"It gives everyone a chance to go along with the tree," Martens said.

Kempthorne has no plans to travel to any of the other stops in Idaho, he said. After the festivities he and the other riders turned their bikes around—the governor’s was borrowed in the valley—and headed homeward.



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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.