U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree visits Suffolk during its country delivery tour to D.C.

Published 6:22 pm Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Suffolk residents gathered Monday evening to catch a glimpse of the nation’s Christmas tree as it makes its way to Washington, D.C.

Affectionately named Ruby, the tree made its way to the Suffolk’s Visitors Center Nov. 14 where locals gathered to take photos and sign name tags to place on the Kenworth truck to make their mark before it arrives at its destination — the West Lawn at the U.S. Capitol Building.

Suffolk Tours and Development Manager Theresa Earles said Suffolk is one of only two Virginia communities where the Capitol tree is stoppin on its way to Washington, D.C.

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“It was harvested from North Carolina and is stopping at two different locations in Virginia on its way to D.C. — the first being Suffolk and the second Chesterfield. We are one of only two spots in the entire state that get to welcome the tree on its way to the Capitol.”

North Carolina Public Affairs Specialist Adrianne Rubiaco said she believes the event is important for the U.S. Forest Service as the agency works to connection with various communities.

“There’s so much excitement around the tree and we’re being given this opportunity to connect with all of the communities,” Rubiaco said. “So with that, being representatives for the U.S. Forest Service, we don’t get that opportunity very often. So we’re very grateful for the opportunities where people are coming out to learn about forestry and forest management and national forests. And also to be here for such an exciting, fun event …To be a part of that, for these communities, is so special.”

Rubiaco also provided details on the tree and how plans to provide forest restoration are already underway.

“The tree is a 78 foot Red Spruce affectionately called Ruby, which is short for the scientific name for a red spruce which is Picea Rubens. We harvested the tree on Nov. 2 and as a result of this program, the project of being the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree, we have been able to partner with the National Forest Foundation and raise funds for Red Spruce restoration, which is just focused on the Southern Appalachian region of the mountain range and replanting red spruce on the land.”

Rubiaco said the Forest Service is able to do a lot of good for the land by harvesting the tree for this purpose.

“We even gathered some of the cones from Ruby, and we’re going to use her seeds to grow into seedlings and be replanted one day back on this landscape,” she said. “The funds will also go to a state of the art greenhouse.”

Earles pointed out the significance of the tree arriving in the City of Suffolk

“Whenever you have such a national treasure come to your town or city, it’s a great honor,” she said. “It’s affectionately called ‘The People’s Tree’ and it will be situated in front of the U.S. Capitol in D.C. so just knowing that it gets to come through Suffolk is a chance for folks that may never get to see it in front of the Capitol, they’re going to see it on its way. It’s also a chance for the community to get together and kind of kick off the holidays.”

Local residents Ron Thompson and Karen Nelson said they were excited to have the chance to see the tree.

“Just wanted to have the moment,” Thompson said. “I mean, coming to Suffolk is special too, you know?”

North Carolina resident Haley Efird also came to the event and spoke about the company that participated in delivering the tree.

“The truck, the company is in our hometown — Hardy Brothers. I grew up about a mile away from Hardy Brothers trucking company,” Efird said.

“It’s just awesome to put our small town on the map and the owners, Ralph and Page, they are amazing people so they deserve this kind of recognition,” she said. “Just showing our hometown and what we’re all about and spreading it all across North Carolina now up into Virginia.”

The tree is a 78-foot tall red spruce harvested Nov. 2 from the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina.

The tour that brought the tree to the city, named “From the Mountains to the Sea” is set to deliver it to the Capitol Nov. 18. One in place, it will be decorated for the tree lighting ceremony set for Nov. 30.