The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, December 13, 2019

Operators provide a lift to State Capitol Christmas tree

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

LANSING - The 2019 official Michigan State Capitol Christmas Tree has a union label on it.

The 61-foot-tall blue spruce that adorns the front of the Capitol Building grounds and is lighted every evening was harvested from property on the north side of Iron Mountain.

Each year, according to George Edwardsen, an Upper Peninsula Business Representative for Operating Engineers Local 324, state workers "bird-dog" areas around the state of Michigan, keeping an eye out for evergreen trees that would be suitable for the state Capitol Christmas tree. He said they actually have prospective trees in mind several years in advance.

This year, after volunteers from the Michigan Association of Timberman and Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association cut down the tree in Iron Mountain, the crew wrapped up the branches and Jim Sorti, owner of F & A Crane Rentals and a member of Wisconsin-based Operating Engineers Local 139, volunteered his time and equipment to lift the seven-ton tree onto a truck for transportation to Lansing. Edwardsen said it's about the third time in recent years that the Operating Engineers and their contractors have been involved in the tree cutting in the U.P.; it all depends on location of the tree and availability of a contractor and equipment.

"The tree cutting is actually quite a big deal," Ewardsen said. The brief ceremony this year included music performed by Iron Mountain and Kingsford bands, comments from Iron Mountain Mayor Dale Alessandrini, the tree's owners, Jordan and Sarah Wolfenberg; Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association representative Denny Olson; and a representative from the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget, which coordinated the harvest and transport.

"What happened here today is a great moment for any community. To be able to have their Christmas tree go to Lansing,” said Denny Olson from the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association.

Edwardsen said it is much more common for the state Christmas trees to be picked from someone's front yard, where it is easily visible, than from the woods. "It's tough to find trees in the woods that are symmetrical," he said. 

When it arrived in Lansing, the HI-Ball Company of Lansing, employers of Local 324 operators, set the tree in place in front of the State Capitol. 

"Our family is greatly honored to have our tree selected to represent the holiday season this year in Lansing," said Sarah Wolfenberg. 

"Regardless of beliefs, it inspires the masses and brings a bipartisan joy to so many."

THE 61-FOOT-TALL blue spruce in front of the Michigan Capitol Building in Lansing arrived there this year from the Upper Peninsula with some help from the Operating Engineers.