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December 6, 2009 10:00 am

Julia_CamaleyJulia C. Patrick serves on the Steering Committee of the Capitol Christmas Tree 2009 project.  A native of Arizona, Julia is traveling with the 85-foot blue spruce tree to Washington, D.C.   Her comments offer a glimpse into this historic event which culminates in the lighting of the “People’s Tree” on December 8, 2009.

 

December 5, 2009

December 5, 2009 1:58 pm

I visit the tree site just about daily to photograph the progress of the Capitol grounds crew and their work with the giant Blue spruce.  With all the security around the Capitol complex, I always identify myself before approaching the heavily secured areas.  Today, upon my arrival, one of the guards interrupted my introductory speech and drawled, “Yeah, I recognized you and all your Arizona turquoise jewelry.  You kinda stand out in these parts.”

At first I was not sure whether to chuckle or not.  However, I chose my Arizona fashion as a testament to the Grand Canyon State and this project.  So I guess it has worked.  I wanted to tell the Capitol guard that in Phoenix, I generally wear a suit to work each day and my cowboy boots only on the weekends.  That I never owned a horse and I live in America’s 5th largest city.  While I am a child of the desert, I am certainly no hick.  I bounced back from my flare of hubris and went on to the work at hand – taking pictures of the Capitol Christmas Tree 2009.

Perhaps all the time away from family has started to make me cranky!

 

December 2, 2009

December 2, 2009 1:56 pm

Our crew has taken the trucks and headed back West.  Only Rick Davalos, Capitol Christmas Tree Coordinator and Jim Payne, the Public Affairs Officer and I remain.  We have office work to do, including media outreach and the various tasks associated with getting the ceremony of the tree lighting completed.  We have changed into our office clothes – saying goodbye to the Forest Service uniforms and for me – my Levi’s.  It is Belt Way professional now.

The three of us have been working on our own projects for most of the days now.  We rejoin at night for a dinner where we recap our activities and plan for the next day.  So far we have ventured into Chinatown for fabulous noodle soup, Italian seafood and even an Ethiopian meal that was tremendous.  Washington, D.C. is a city of the world and we are taking advantage of the cultures that have come to the Capitol.

I miss our tour team so much.  The work now is not as fun as it was when we were on tour.  The hours are a lot less intense and we have fallen into a new pattern which is much more mental and somehow more exhausting.

 

November 30, 2009

November 30, 2009 1:55 pm

We officially delivered the People’s Tree to the United States Congress today.  Our morning began at about 3:00 am, or at least it was supposed to!  For some reason, my handy travel alarm rebelled at the thought of another early wake-up call and did not go off.  I was roused by Capitol Christmas Tree Coordinator, Rick Davalos with a phone call wondering where I was.  Horrified by the thought of being left behind, I threw my things into my duffle bag and bolted out the door in the dark of night.  Our caravan was lined up, their exhausts belching out puffs of white in the frigid morning air as I jumped into the truck that has been my chariot for the past 4,600 miles.  Maryland State Police escorts with their flashing lights led us through meandering streets and into the hands of Capitol Police where were taken up to the West lawn of the Capitol.

As dawn bloomed we began the arduous task of preparing the giant Christmas tree for delivery.  Cold wind blew throughout the morning with rain threatening us along the way.  I was amazed by the number of folks who strolled past our parked caravan to inquire about the tree.  One woman stopped to chat had ties to Arizona with family as well as a D.C. neighbor who was actually from Alpine, the tiny White Mountain community where the tree came from!

 

November 28, 2009

November 28, 2009 1:51 pm

JCP-w-ChadA critical part of this project has been law enforcement.  From the security of the actual tree to the safely escorting two giant semi-trucks, a variety of additional Forest Service vehicles and a hybrid Prius, this is a daunting task.  Our LEO – Law Enforcement Officer – is Chad Scussle.  This second-generation Forest Service member has been the mighty force keeping us safe, on track and moving in the right direction.  A young man, with a passion for his trade, Chad has left his wife and two small babies at home in Snowflake, Arizona for the grinding duration of this expedition.

I have never spent any amount of time around law enforcement professionals and this new friendship has become one of my fascinations.  Chad has given me tremendous insight into the process of law enforcement, complete with humor and amazing compassion.  He along, with the other members of this intrepid team, has instilled a great degree of pride and confidence in the process and stewardship of the Forest Service.  Jason Mangum has nicknamed Chad “The Bulldog” and it seems perfectly fitting.

 

November 26, 2009

November 26, 2009 12:01 pm

JCP-and-Jason-at-OprylandThanksgiving has always been my most treasured day of the year.  Today we are in Roanoke, Virginia with blustery weather and Christmas just around the corner.  It was November 3rd when I left my home and family to embark upon this once in a lifetime journey.  I will not return until about December 12th.  When I left Phoenix it was still hot and the holidays seemed like a million miles away.  Cooler weather, let alone gloves and a wool coat seemed like a fashion folly.  Now, I find myself chilled to the bone on a daily basis.

I have never been away from my child and husband for such an extended time, nor have most of my traveling companions.  However, we are a merry lot and crafted a family of our own, complete with patience for each other’s annoying habits.  Of course, as with any family we have our running jokes, enjoy poking fun at each other and are now starting to complete each other’s sentences.  I tag-team dinner with my new best friend Jason Mangum the City of Show Low Parks and Recreation Director.  He is the perfect foil for sharing a dessert after a hearty meal.

A big bear of a man, always quick with a smile, Jason is quick witted, completely fun and lives in the moment.  He has reminded me the value of searching for the joy in every moment.

 

November 24, 2009

November 24, 2009 12:03 pm

JCP-w-Jim-PayneJames W. Payne is my brother in crime.  As the Forest Service PIO – that’s Public Information Officer for us outside the agency – he is the go to guy for media.  He is a tall, handsome man who has grown a full white beard in the spirit of the season.  Jim is also retiring this year and our journey of the Capitol Christmas Tree 2009 has become one giant farewell event.  Forest Service staff, active and retired, have visited our event stops along the way to bid him adieu.  It has been a marvelous thing to witness.

Jim has been able to manage the flurry of media activity that swirls around the tree.  He is adept at gathering media outlets to our event sites and making each newspaper, magazine, radio and television station feel as though they are getting the best “scoop” of the day.  He is never without his phone, laptop and notebook – always furiously working on behalf of this project.  I have enjoyed working with him and learning how the Forest Service communicates with the media.

 

November 23, 2009

November 23, 2009 12:00 pm

We are moving through the South with the tree.   Along the way, people stop on the side of country roads dotted with red barns and tangled ribbons of concrete freeways.  They whip out cell phones to photograph the caravan and enjoy our friendly waves.  I can often see the slight confusion on their faces as they wonder if Arizona could really provide the U.S. Capitol with such a majestic tree.

Our massive trucks proudly herald the entrance of Arizona’s Gift from the Grand Canyon State.  We are frequently asked if this year the tree is a cactus!  We all seem to love the bragging rights we have of delivering a blue spruce that was 85 feet tall at harvest.

 

November 22, 2009

November 22, 2009 11:59 am

An important part of our tour crew has returned home and we are all so sad.  Brenda Jensen, Jerry Sullivan and Craig Shepherd worked tirelessly on the transportation and sales of our commemorative merchandise.  The trio of Forest Service pros spent their days and many late nights inside a small trailer amidst boxes of t-shirts, hats and mugs.

At each of our 29 Arizona event stops they jumped through hoops of fire to connect with the scores of folks who came to greet the Capitol Christmas Tree.  Wanting to leave with some type of memento, our “Emporium Team” filled sales orders as fast as they could.  After the first two days of the tour we began to see our inventory dwindle at an unplanned rate.  By the time we hit the mid part of our tour entire groups of items were completely sold out!

Brenda, Jerry and Craig became an integral part of the process and such a wonderful part of our journey.  But having said that… they sold out of all the fabulous Christmas red ceramic mugs before I was able to buy one!

 

November 21, 2009

November 21, 2009 12:06 pm

JCP-w-SmokyAs we have moved across the state and towards the border of Arizona and New Mexico, we will end the first part of our tour.  The next phase of our travels will take us across the nation and into Washington, D.C. where we will deliver the Capitol Christmas Tree 2009 to Congress on November 30, 2009.  All these months of planning have materialized and I can hardly believe we are actually doing this!

The mornings are turning chilly and this makes our Foresters very happy.  They worry about the condition of the blue spruce every moment and cool, damp weather is what they want.  Imagine your own Christmas tree and having to vacuum up dead needles.  Well… this tree taller than a seven story building could pose a herculean task for even the best Hoover.

 
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United States Forest Service