Boise fifth grader to light Capitol Christmas Tree

Isabella Gerard, a fifth-grade student at Boise’s St. Mary’s Catholic School, will join Sen. Mike Crapo and House Speaker Paul Ryan in Washington, D.C., Tuesday night to light the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree on the West Lawn.

“I can’t wait to push the button and watch the tree light up,” Isabella said.

Isabella was among 200 Idaho students who submitted entries in a contest held by Crapo. Isabella’s entry, a poem titled “Pristine Idaho Mountains,” was selected in a random drawing.

“I enjoy the outdoors and being in the forest,” Gerard said. “When I wrote the poem, I imagined I was there.”

The Capitol Christmas Tree traveled 4,000 miles to the nation’s capital from the Payette National Forest. The 84-year-old Engelmann Spruce stands 80 feet tall and is decorated with LED lights and 6,000 ornaments made from recycled materials by students throughout the state.

“The ornaments carry 20 pounds of glitter,” said Keith Lannom, supervisor of the Payette National Forest.

Isabella Gerard1
Isabella Gerard presenting her winning poem at a tree ceremony in November on the Statehouse steps. (Left to right) Rep. Raul Labrador, Sen. Mike Crapo, Isabella Gerard, Gov. Butch Otter and Sen. Jim Risch.

Isabella is in Washington, D.C., with her parents, Annalyn and Josh Gerard. They plan to tour the White House and Capitol building and explore the Smithsonian Museums.

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You can stream the tree lighting Tuesday at 3p.m. MT.

Fun facts about the Capitol Christmas Tree

  • The U.S. Forest Service has provided the Capitol tree since 1970. The tree is required to be between 65 and 85 feet tall, conical in shape and have full branches all around.
  • This is the second time Idaho has provided a Capitol tree. In 2003, it sent an Engelmann Spruce from the Boise National Forest.
  • Payette National Forest workers cut the 2016 tree with a cross-cut saw as a way of honoring the state’s logging history.
  • Along with providing a massive tree for the West Lawn, the selected state provides 70 smaller trees to be showcased throughout the Capitol.
  • The Capitol Christmas Tree differs from the National Christmas tree, which is planted near the White House and lit by the president and first lady. The Speaker of the House officially lights the Capitol tree, also known as “The People’s Tree.”

Isabella’s poem:

“Idaho is blessed with beautiful mountains and immense forests.

In the winter the mountains and forests are covered with snow, making the landscape look like never ending clouds with skyscrapers covered in snow.

Big tall trees.

Beautiful to look at.

Amazing to see.

Pristine mountains.

As I sit in the forest I find peace.

As the wind blows through the tall Ponderosa pines I feel a sense of solitude and peacefulness.

To someone that has never been in an Idaho forest, it is hard to understand the size and beauty.

If only you could be here looking at these beautiful Idaho scenes.”