For the first time in its history, the Commonwealth of Virginia is gifting the nation with the holiday tree that will be erected on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

The 70-foot red spruce was cut last week in Highland County from the George Washington National Forest and will be part of this year's theme "From Virginia — Birthplace of Presidents" as eight U.S. Presidents came from Virginia.

The U.S. Capitol Holiday Tree will kick off a journey around the state at a 2 p.m. celebration on Saturday, Nov. 13, in Highland County. Including holiday entertainment and hot drinks, the celebration will include the following speakers: Highland County officials, Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, and Congressman Bob Goodlatte. The event is being hosted by the Highland County Committee for the Capitol Holiday Tree. The public is invited to attend.

Virginia Tech is one of numerous partners with the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, which is spearheading the activities surrounding transporting the tree to Washington, D.C.

To keep residents up-to-date on the tree and its travels, Virginia Tech's College of Natural Resources is hosting the Capitol Holiday Tree website, http://capitolholidaytree2004.org/, with Les Fuller, senior research associate, working on the design and maintenance of the site in collaboration with Donna Wilson and JoBeth Brown from the U.S. Forest Service in Roanoke, Va.

Because of the various supports from Virginia Tech's College of Natural Resources, the tree will bear the Virginia Tech/College of Natural Resources logo on the shrink-wrap that covers it along with logos of other partners, including Bartlett Tree Experts, Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation, Georgia-Pacific, Virginia Forestry Association, Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association, American Electric Power, Great Dane Trailers, Mount Rogers Christmas Tree Growers Association, Comfort Inn in Fairfax, Smurfit-Stone Container Corporation, BWXT, Coors Brewing Company, ExxonMobile Corp, Husqvarna, Mead Westvaco, Virginia Wineries Association and Vinifera Wine Growers Association, United Company Charitable Foundation, Virginia Distribution Center, Virginia Forestry Education Foundation, and Weyerhaeuser.

In addition to the tree bound for the Capitol, Virginia Christmas tree growers will be providing some 70 smaller trees that will be distributed among Washington's House and Senate office buildings and other government offices as a gift from the people of Virginia.

"In December it will be Virginia's turn to shine at our nation's Capitol," said Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, this year's honorary chair of the Capitol Tree Project. "The commonwealth has a lot to be proud of, and working with this exciting project has brought many folks across this great state closer together."

"I am extremely pleased that the holiday tree on display at the U.S. Capitol this year will be from Highland County, which is in my Congressional District," said Congressman Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. "This is the first time in history that the Capitol holiday tree has been from Virginia, and it's truly an exciting opportunity for the commonwealth. Hopefully, most Virginians will have a chance to see this great tree as it travels to communities throughout Virginia on its way to Washington."

Vera Dickerson, an award-winning Roanoke artist, will unveil her painting of the tree in its natural setting. Dickerson is donating the painting to the Commonwealth of Virginia to be placed in a prominent viewing area for all to enjoy. It also will be on display at the Lighting Ceremony in Washington on Dec. 9.

The 2004 Capitol Holiday Tree's entire trip from Highland County to Washington is funded with donations and coordinated by volunteers. On Saturday, those in attendance will get to see the 70-foot tree on the truck donated by Camrett Logistics and Great Dane Trailers. On its way to Washington, the tree will visit 33 communities that are hosting holiday celebrations.

The tree will make its appearance in the following communities: Nov. 13

Monterey; Send-off ceremony, 2 p.m. at Highland County Fairgrounds

Nov. 14

Winchester; 10:50 a.m.; Karen Helm; (540) 722-7576

Leesburg; 2 p.m.; Kathy Leidich; (703) 771-2709

Culpeper; 5:30 p.m.; Paula Stafford; (540) 727-0611

Nov. 15

King George County -10 a.m.; (540) 775-9181

Westmoreland County; 12:45 p.m.; Tina Blair; (804) 493-8163

Henrico County; 4:25 p.m.; Debbie Cassidy; (804) 501-5113

Nov. 16

Petersburg; 9:30 a.m.; Tami Champ; (804) 733-2394

Charles City; 12:30 p.m.; Judy Ledbetter; (804) 829-4005

Hampton; 4 p.m.; Rebecca Gibson; (757) 727-6876

Nov. 17

Onancock; 10 a.m.; Susan Scott; (757) 787-3363

Cape Charles; 3 p.m.; Debra Christie; (757) 331-2304

Nov. 18

Virginia Beach; 11 a.m.; Bobby Melatti; (757) 425-3111

Norfolk; 3:30 p.m.; Teri Bishirjian; (757) 664-4005

Nov. 19

Suffolk; 9:30 a.m.; Lynette Brugeman; (757) 923-3881

Emporia; 12:50 p.m.; George Morrison or Lori Jarratt; (434) 634-3332

South Boston; 5 p.m.; Tamara Vest; (434) 575-4209

Nov. 20

Chatham; 10 a.m.; David Cothran; (434) 432-9515

Nov. 21

Damascus; 2 p.m.; Tonya Triplett; (276) 475-3831

Smyth County/Marion; 5:10 p.m.; Jody Arnold; (276) 783-3161

Nov. 22

Wise; 9:30 a.m.; Bonnie Aker (276) 328-8184

Crab Orchard Museum/Tazewell; 1:15 p.m.; Randall Rose; (276) 988-6755

Wytheville; 4:45 p.m.; Steve Moore (276) 223-3352 or Rosa Lee Jude (276) 223-3355

Nov. 23

Clifton Forge; 9:35 a.m.; Tom Harris; (540) 863-2500

New Market; 2:35 p.m.; Chad Neese; (540) 740-3432

Staunton; 4:35 p.m.; Doug Cochran; (540) 332-3838

Nov. 24

New Castle; 9:30 a.m.; Larry Moore; (540) 864-5010

Roanoke; 5 p.m.; Katie Lucas (540) 342-2640 Ext 29

Nov. 26

Orange; 2 p.m.; Carolyn Wray; (540) 972-7761

Nov. 27

Amherst; 11 a.m.; Jack Hobbs; (434) 946-7885

Farmville; 5:15 p.m.; Gerald Spates or Kim Thompson; (434) 392-5686

Nov. 28

Manassas; 11 a.m.; Debbie Sandlin; (703) 257-8297

Alexandria; 2:10 p.m.; Janet Barnett; (703) 838-4842

Vienna; 5 p.m.; Cathy Salgado; (703) 255-6356

Nov. 29

Arrive in Washington

In addition to the stops for the tree across Virginia, there will be a drawing at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10, at Holiday Lake 4-H Educational Center in Appomattox for a free trip to the U.S. Capitol Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony and reception on Dec. 9. NASCAR driver Ward Burton will draw the name of a child and a teacher who entered the contest by making an ornament for the U.S. Capitol Holiday Tree. Burton is the celebrity chair for the 2004 Capitol Holiday Tree project.

School children and citizens across Virginia have made almost 5,000 ornaments that will decorate the Virginia tree that will adorn the U.S. Capitol lawn.

The College of Natural Resources at Virginia Tech consistently ranks among the top five programs of its kind in the nation. Faculty members stress both the technical and human elements of natural resources and instill in students a sense of stewardship and land-use ethics. Areas of studies include environmental resource management, fisheries and wildlife sciences, forestry, geospatial and environmental analysis, natural resource recreation, urban forestry, wood science and forest products, geography, and international development.

Founded in 1872 as a land-grant college, Virginia Tech has grown to become among the largest universities in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Today, Virginia Tech's eight colleges are dedicated to putting knowledge to work through teaching, research, and outreach activities and to fulfilling its vision to be among the top research universities in the nation. At its 2,600-acre main campus located in Blacksburg and other campus centers in Northern Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Hampton Roads, Richmond, and Roanoke, Virginia Tech enrolls more than 28,000 full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries in 180 academic degree programs.