79-foot Montana Christmas tree lit outside US Capitol

WASHINGTON — A Christmas tree that was transported more than 3,600 miles (5,793 kilometers) from Montana’s Kootenai National Forest has been lit on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

Ridley Brandmayr, an 11-year-old Bozeman boy, lit the 79-foot (24-meter) tree during a ceremony Wednesday evening. The Engelmann Spruce was cut in November and features 12,500 handmade ornaments.

The tradition started in 1964 when Speaker of the House John McCormack placed a live Christmas tree on the Capitol lawn. Nowadays, a different National Forest is chosen each year to provide “The People’s Tree.”

Montana Sen. Jon Tester chose Brandmayr to light the tree because of the boy’s perseverance following a kitchen accident in which he lost the fingers on his right hand. Tester lost three fingers when he was a boy.