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Long road starts Wednesday for Capitol Christmas Tree: Tree will come from Chippewa National Forest, visit Bemidji on Sunday

According to the tree's website -- www.capitolchristmastree.com-- the 2014 Capitol Christmas Tree will be a white spruce, selected for its size and shape. Thousands of lights and locally decorated ornaments will adorn the tree, which will placed on west lawn of the U.S. Capitol grounds.

Wednesday's tree-cutting ceremony will feature a traditional blessing ceremony by members of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. The event starts at noon and will feature remarks by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn.

The tree will be felled by Jim Scheff, Minnesota Logger of the Year. The exact location of the tree has not been made public, and 250 people had to register by Friday to attend Wedneday's ceremony. Details on the location will be given to the media and those attending before Wednesday, officials said.

Wrapped at BSU

Once cut down, the tree will be placed on a specially designed semi-trailer and hauled to its first stop -- Bemidji State University. Once there, it will be officially wrapped for its roughly three-week cross country tour to Washington. The wrapping process will take about four to six hours, officials said.

Itasca State Park will be next up for the tree on Sunday, before it makes its way back to Bemidji for several events downtown. It will then go to Walker and the Leech Lake tribal offices in Cass Lake on Monday and will be in Blackduck on Tuesday morning. In all, there will be more than 30 stops for the tree before it arrives at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on Nov. 20.

Leech Lake students to travel, too

The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe plans to send 180 area students, teachers and community members to Washington, to participate in the official tree-lighting ceremony in in early December. The five-day educational experience is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 30 through Dec. 5.

While students are in Washington, they will have the honor of sharing a part of their culture by performing traditional Ojibwe drumming and dancing performances at various Christmas Tree Lighting celebrations and receptions.

It is estimated the cost to send the students and teachers on this field trip to our nation¹s capital will be $130,000. Raffles, a fundraising gala, and requests for corporate contributions are underway. Online contributions can be made by visiting www.indiegogo.com/projects/ from-our-home-to-capitolhill. Contributions can also be made out to the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe care of Synergetic Endeavors at 660 Transfer Road, Saint Paul, MN 55114. All contributions are tax-deductible.

The ornaments for the tree will come from Minnesota, many of them decorated in the Bemidji area. Also, area residents have made other accessories for the tree, including tree skirts.

In addition to the main Christmas tree, companion trees from the Minnesota Tree Growers Association also will be placed in federal buildings in Washington.

Bemidji events

On Sunday, the city of Bemidji will host several events to mark its stop on the Capitol Christmas Tree tour:

• Noon. Northwoods lunch: wild rice soup and biscuits at Headwaters Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

• Noon - 4 p.m. Senior Activity Center open to public for shopping, cider, coffee and cookies.

• 12:30 - 1:30 p.m. Concert: traditional music from the Northwoods. Brian Miller and Randy Gosa at Headwaters Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Cost is $5 for adults and $3 for children.

• 1:30 - 4 p.m. Music performances and appearances at the Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues from the First City Bell Ringers, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Bemidji Axeman, Paul Bunyan, Smokey Bear, Bemidji Chorale, Frosty the snowman.

• 1:30 - 4:30 p.m. Bonfire at the Tourist Information Center: hot cocoa and s'mores for sale hosted by the Boys Scouts of America.

• 1:30 - 4:30 p.m. Booths and exhibits and Tourist Information Center from Choose Outdoors, Minnesota DNR, Chippewa National Forest, Bemidji Axeman, Minnesota Christmas Tree Growers Association and more.

• 2 - 3 p.m. U.S. Capitol Christmas tree escort.

• 2 - 4 p.m. Make and decorate wooden Christmas tree ornaments at Senior Activity Center. Hosted by Bemidji Girl Scouts.

• 3:30 p.m. Tree sendoff with Mayor Rita Albrecht at Paul and Babe.

• 4 - 7 p.m. Walleye and steak dinner at American Legion.

Blackduck and beyond

While in Blackduck, several events will take place beginning at 7 a.m. Nov. 4 with a pancake and sausage breakfast at the Blackduck Senior Center for a free-will offering. Following the meal, an event on the east side of the Blackduck School on First Street, will begin with Mayor Daryl Lundberg and Blackduck District Ranger Brian Tritle speaking at 8:40 a.m.

The city and the Forest Service will exchange gifts following their speeches. The city is providing a wooden plaque to the Forest Service for a tree that will be displayed in town.

Mark Friesen, leader of the Blackduck Future Farmers of America, will also speak regarding the involvement of the FFA and the tree-cutting ceremony.

Students from Blackduck Elementary and High School will be present at the event to sign the tree and meet Smokey the Bear. The high school band will also play holiday music throughout the morning. Community members will also be welcome to sign the tree.

The tree will leave Blackduck by 10 a.m. and be escorted out of town by the Blackduck Fire and Police Departments.

The tree will make several more stops in Minnesota, including in Duluth and the Twin Cities, before moving on to Wisconsin and the rest of its journey. You can track the tree from the official website -- www.capitolchristmastree.com.

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