BARSTOW Christmas is coming early to Barstow this year, thanks to a 65-foot tree that will make an overnight stop here on Monday afternoon during its cross-country trip to Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree is displayed on the lawn of the Capitol building and is currently making its way through California.

When the tree stops in Barstow, residents will be able to watch a brief ceremony including a performance by the Barstow Junior High School band and sign a large banner accompanying the tree, according to Maria Benech, 2011 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Coordinator.

Some local schoolchildren from Barstow Unified School District have also been working on ornaments. Benech said the ornaments will be displayed on either the large tree or the 100 smaller ones that will also be placed at the Capitol.

Residents are also encouraged to bring non-perishable food items to donate to the Capitol Christmas Tree Food Drive, said Benech. The tree coordinators are hoping to have enough food donated throughout the state to fill up a second semi-truck. The food will then be donated to two food banks in Gallup, N.M.

Residents who bring at least two food items will be entered into a raffle contest, with prizes from several local companies, according to a prepared statement from the City of Barstow.

"The tree has become a real magnet, a focal point for communities to come together and simply celebrate the season and our country," said Benech.

The 118-year-old Sierra white fir was cut from the Stanislaus National Forest in Northern California earlier this month and is traveling on a semi-truck on a specially built cradle that supports and protects it.

The tree will be leaving Rancho Cucamonga around 2 p.m. and traveling on Interstate 15 to Barstow, according to Benech. A caravan of vehicles including law enforcement officers will be escorting the tree.

After the tree leaves Barstow on Tuesday morning, it will head east on Interstate 40. A lighting ceremony is scheduled on Dec. 6.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4122 or kjonas@desertdispatch.com

U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree
63-foot tree used in Washington D.C. display
On display 4:30 p.m. - 6 p.m.
Tanger Outlet Mall, 2796 Tanger Way
For more information, call 760-255-5195