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Montanans part of Capitol Christmas tree celebration - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT

Montanans part of Capitol Christmas tree celebration

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Montana's congressional delegation took the lead in helping celebrate the lighting of the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree Wednesday evening.

This year's tree came from Montana's Kootenai National Forrest and arrived in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 27.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont. and House Speaker Paul Ryan,R- Wis., each spoke about the man who transported the tree, Larry Spiekermeier.

Spiekermeier drove 3,000 miles from Yaak in the northwestern part of the state in his semi to deliver the tree to the Capitol.

Ryan counted down to the lighting, and Ridley Brandmayr, 11, of Bozeman had the honor of lighting the tree.

“Ridley recently lost his fingers in tragic accident,” Tester said. “Despite this adversity, Ridley continues to show incredible strength and determination, to pursue his passions of hunting and fishing. And word has it, Mr. Director, if you ever take cellos, he plays a pretty mean cello.”

Tester then looked toward Brandmayr.

“Look Ridley, some day, you may even be a senator,” said Tester, who is famously missing two fingers from a farming accident.

The tree is a 79-foot tall Engelmann Spruce and has some 3,500 ornaments.

The Christmas tree tradition started on the Capitol's West Lawn in 1964.

"This tree is more than a symbol of the natural resources of the Treasure State,” Tester said. “It is our shared history intertwined with our outdoor heritage and our Montana values. It is an example of what happens when this nation works together toward a common goal. It is a symbol of unity this Christmas season."

"If there are any service members from Montana either here or watching from afar, as Montanans we are proud of this tree. We are even prouder of you,” Daines said. “And I want to thank you for your service to our great country."

"May the people's tree from under Montana's big sky be a sign of good cheer,” Gianforte said. “May it and the star adorning it serve as a beacon of hope that brings us together."

Montana also received the honor of providing the Capitol tree in 1989 and 2008.

Wyoming sent a tree in 2010.

The tree will be lit each night until 11 p.m., through Jan. 1.

Watch the entire video of the ceremony here:

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