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Editorial: A Capitol celebration right here

Minnesota will be front and center Dec. 2 as the nation lights the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. Speaker of the House John A. Boehner will flip the ceremonial switch at 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, illuminating the Capitol’s West Front Lawn.

“It’s a major point of pride for Minnesota that this year’s Capitol Christmas Tree comes from the Chippewa National Forest,” U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said. “This massive spruce is a shining example of the extraordinary natural beauty our state has to offer, and I’m excited to see it light up our nation’s capital this holiday season for the entire country to see.”

But first the tree will stop here.

For those who have missed the hoopla, this year’s tree comes from near Cass Lake. Harvested Oct. 29, the 80-foot tree is traveling through the state this week before heading across the country.

Red Wing will be stop 14 of nearly 30 before reaching Washington, D.C., on Nov. 21. You can track the journey at http://www.capitolchristmastree.com. Better yet, you can be part of the celebration by heading downtown Friday evening.

The St. James Hotel is headquarters for activities from 4 to 8 p.m. that include decorating a keepsake ornament, frosting cookies, listening to music and, of course, looking at the tree. It bears thousands of ornaments, handcrafted by children and others from Minnesota communities as a gift from the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” The spruce is enclosed on its side in a semi-trailer with large “windows” on the end so the decorated top is visible.

Red Wing was among the first cities to sign up for a tour slot and having a Friday overnight stop is the result. A large local committee — of too many people to acknowledge here — did a fine job of preparing for the event they have dubbed Spruce–A-Palooza. Now they invite you to come.

The Capitol Christmas Tree has been a tradition at the U.S. Capitol since 1964, but this is the first time it will come to Red Wing. The arrival will bring an early start to the Christmas season and, while shining a light on Minnesota, the tree also will stand as a bright reminder from nightfall to 11 p.m. daily through Jan. 1, 2015, that we are part of a free nation.

The House speaker put it this way: “The Capitol Christmas Tree brings with it excitement and anticipation for the season of giving, and a chance for us to come together in peace and goodwill.”

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