[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Inside
Weather
Santa Clarita CA
Cloudy
Cloudy
72°F
 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
July 18
2009 - Two killed in crash of experimental plane in Sand Canyon [video]


SCV resident Marilyn Hackett tries to get a look through the plexiglass at the upper branches of the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree.

Expectations ran a bit high for spectators who thought they’d see the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree standing upright Saturday morning at the Saugus Speedway, but at more than 8,000 pounds and six stories in height, it wasn’t coming out of its brand-new Mack truck and trailer during the brief stop along its two-week, 4,500-mile cross-country journey.

The small but steady stream of Santa Clarita residents who braved the gathering storm clouds did get to peek through plexiglass at the tree’s top branches and sign banners spanning both sides of the 65-foot trailer – an enormous “thank you” card to the sponsors of the privately funded trek.

“This is the people’s tree,” said Maria Benech, the 2011 Capitol Christmas Tree coordinator. “It’s going in front of the people’s house.”

Canyon Country resident Dante Acosta penned a special message on one of the banners. His son, Army Spc. Rudy Acosta, 19, was killed in action in Afghanistan on March 19.

Saturday was less about seeing the tree than leaving messages that will travel with it across country.

“I put, ‘Rest in peace, Rudy,’ and I also mentioned Donald Mickler, who was killed alongside Rudy,” Acosta said. “I want people to know that the reason we can do these things, these celebrations, and be here, is because of our soldiers and fighting men and women around the country, around the world, that are fighting for our freedom. I want to make sure that’s always in the forefront of people’s minds.”

Service organizations used the opportunity to collect cards that will be sent to U.S. troops during the holidays. Catherine Moore, a fourth grade teacher at Pico Canyon Elementary School, handed her classroom’s batch of holiday greetings to U.S. Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon and his staff.

“It’s hard for people to understand the impact,” said McKeon, R-Santa Clarita. “But (for military personnel) to hear from home, and especially during the holiday season, it’s just a fantastic thing to be a part of.”

McKeon, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, started putting out the call for holiday cards two years ago just prior to a Thanksgiving trip to Afghanistan. He delivered the cards in several locations, including hospitals. There was one he says he’ll never forget.

USDA Forester Maria Benech, coordinator of the 2011 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, answers a young visitor's question.

“This soldier was lying in (a hospital) bed and I handed him the cards. I was still talking to him, but he started reading the cards. Then he started laughing. He held up the card for me to see and it says, ‘Dear Soldier, don’t die.’ From a third grader.”

On Saturday a different third grader, Jeremy Root from Sulphur Springs Community School, crafted a card with a more traditional albeit equally simple message.

It said, “’Thank you’ (from) Jeremy, as a thank you for what they do – fight for our freedom,” the boy said.

His sister, first grader Jenna Root, said she “made a card for the soldiers, because the soldiers fight for things. I wrote, ‘Thank you for all you do,’ and I signed it.”

Suzon Gerstel and her small army of volunteers from Prayer Angels for the Military ran a booth for people to donate toys for military children. They could also make cards, letters and ornaments to go into care packages, and sign a banner to be sent to troops fighting in Afghanistan.

“It’s just a great way to kick off Christmas,” Gerstel said.

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree trek got into the spirit of giving, as well, with a food drive for Gallup, New Mex.

“We (saw that) Gallup was one of the cities that runs along our route on Highway 40,” Benech said. “It’s the third poorest city in the nation, has a mean annual income of $5,000, and we felt, ‘My gosh, what can we do for Gallup?’ So we’re doing a canned food drive. At every (stop) we’re asking people to bring canned food for us, and we’re providing that to Gallup.”

Cash is OK, too, she said. “We’re going to be buying some food before we head out of (California) for those folks in Gallup.”

The tree is due to arrive in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 20. It will be lit Dec. 6 by House Speaker John Boehner and by a child from Sonora, Calif., who won a drawing.

The tree is a Sierra white fir that comes from a portion of the Stanislaus National Forest about 50 miles east of Sonora, Benech said. The USDA Forest Service has provided a Christmas tree for the U.S. Capitol annually since 1970. This is only the fourth time in those 41 years that the tree came from California, and the first time since 1995.

Benech said the Forest Service chief in Washington picks the region each year. This year he picked the Forest Service region that consists of California and Hawaii.

“It wasn’t going to come from Hawaii,” Benech said.

She described the tree as “perfectly conical. If you go to the Christmas tree lot, it’s the perfect tree that you’re looking for – really full, no holes in it. It’s 360 degrees around perfection.”

It took two cranes to lift it onto its ride.

“It’s on a specially made cradle so the bottom branches didn’t break when we set it on the truck,” Benech said. “It also sits in a 60-gallon bladder. We used a big old inner tube, and we fill it with 60 gallons of water every night so we can keep it green, just like you do with your Christmas tree at home.”

She said Santa Clarita was selected for a showing because “it was a nice in-between stop.” On Friday it was in Kingsburg and it’s scheduled to stop Sunday at the Autry Center in Los Angeles.

Benech said the entire trip – except for her salary as a USDA forester – is funded through donations, including the truck and fuel.

Asked about the environmental implications of chopping down a tree in a national forest, she said, “We cut trees down all the time. It’s actually really healthy for the forest.”

“We have more trees today than we did historically because of our fire suppression that we’ve been doing for years – which is a great thing, not to let the forest burn up,” she said. “But unfortunately we’re really good at it. We actually have an overabundance of trees. Removing this one tree from the forest is actually a good thing.”

She said this year’s Capitol Christmas tree “is an older tree that was kind of really slowing down its growth.”

Sierra white pines “don’t live much beyond 150 years,” she said, “unlike the sugar pine or the ponderosa pine that will live 400 or 500 years, no problem. Removing this tree actually allowed those trees around it to grow and be better. It was competing for water, and now it’s not. So it’s a good way to end its life and be a wonderful way out, in front of the Capitol.”

Even then, its service won’t be done.

“After Christmas, it will be taken down and it will be mulched and spread on the Capitol grounds so none of it goes to waste,” said McKeon.

“We’re fortunate here in Santa Clarita to have it stop for four hours,” he said, adding: “This is middle America. Even though we’re on the West Coast, this is middle America. People that love their country are here to celebrate the beginning of the holiday season.”

Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.

3 Comments

  1. Debbie says:

    Thanks for the great story, and all of the pictures, especially the pictures of our dog Bruno. It was a great start to the Holiday Seasons. Thank you Charles & Debbie Lamb members of the Ameriacan Legion Riders of Post 507.

  2. Debbie says:

    Thank you for the great story, and all of the pictures, especially the pictures of our dog Bruno. It was a great way to start the Holiday Season. Thanks Charles & Debbie Lamb members of the American Legion Riders of Post 507.

Leave a Comment


SCV NewsBreak
LOCAL NEWS HEADLINES
Tuesday, Jul 17, 2018
County Combines New, Existing Programs to Combat Homelessness
The county of Los Angeles and community partners are working hand-in-hand to combat homelessness, which has decreased for the first time in four years.
Tuesday, Jul 17, 2018
Man Found Dead in Canyon Country
Officials at the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner have identified the body of a man who was found in a Canyon Country field Monday night.
Tuesday, Jul 17, 2018
Santa Clarita Man Gets 18 Months in Prison for Bribery, Attempted Extortion
LOS ANGELES – A former staffer for a member of the United States Congress was sentenced today to 18 months in prison for bribery and attempted extortion after demanding and accepting $5,000 to prevent the closure of a marijuana shop in the city of Compton.
Keep Up With Our Facebook

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
2009 - Two killed in crash of experimental plane in Sand Canyon [video]
The Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce is holding a Business After Hours Mixer at Valencia Acura, Wednesday, July 18, at 5:30 p.m.
July 18: SCV Chamber’s Business After Hours Mixer
Supervisor Kathryn Barger cast the lone vote opposing a motion to place a measure on the November ballot which seeks to increase property taxes on residential and commercial properties to generate approximately $300 million a year to fund additional stormwater projects.
Barger Lone Vote on Proposed Stormwater Tax
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to move forward with a comprehensive plan to increase local water supply and improve water quality.
Supes Move Forward with Efforts to Improve Local Water Supply, Quality
The county of Los Angeles and community partners are working hand-in-hand to combat homelessness, which has decreased for the first time in four years.
County Combines New, Existing Programs to Combat Homelessness
Officials at the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner have identified the body of a man who was found in a Canyon Country field Monday night.
Man Found Dead in Canyon Country
Single Mother's Outreach is currently accepting honoree nominations and artist applications through July 30.
Single Mother’s Outreach Accepting Nominees, Artist Applications
The Stay Green Inc. team has been rewarded for its excellence with eight awards — including four prestigious first-place honors — in the 59th Annual Landscape Beautification Awards presented by the San Fernando Valley Chapter of the California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA).
Stay Green Earns Four First-Place Landscape Honors
Here is the list of Santa Clarita arts-related events for July 18-20:
July 18-20: Santa Clarita Arts Calendar
The city of Santa Clarita saw an increase in on-location filming in Fiscal Year 2017-2018 (July 2017 to June 2018), with the Film Office recording 560 film permits and 1377 film days, which generated an estimated $33.1 million in economic impact to the local community.
Santa Clarita Sees Increase in On-Location Filming for 5th Straight Year
Six Santa Clarita Artists Association members were accepted in the impressive La Galeria Gitana exhibit, "Around the World in 80 Paintings."
Aug. 11: Artists Association Presents, ‘Around the World in 80 Paintings’
LOS ANGELES – A former staffer for a member of the United States Congress was sentenced today to 18 months in prison for bribery and attempted extortion after demanding and accepting $5,000 to prevent the closure of a marijuana shop in the city of Compton.
Santa Clarita Man Gets 18 Months in Prison for Bribery, Attempted Extortion
1834 - Sinforosa, daughter of Narciso and Crisanta, born at Mission San Fernando; mom from Tejon, dad from Piru; believed to be last speaker of Tataviam language (died 1915) [record]
Berry Petroleum Corp., owner of the Placerita oil field west of Sierra Highway between Placerita Canyon Road and Golden Valley Road in Santa Clarita - and many other oil properties in the San Joaquin Valley - announced Monday that it has launched an initial public offering of its common stock.
Placerita Oil Field Owner Going Public Again
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is alerting health care professionals and patients of a voluntary recall of several drug products containing the active ingredient Valsartan, used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure.
Blood Pressure Medicine Valsartan Recalled for Cancer-Causing Impurity
The next regular meeting of the Governing Board of the William S. Hart Union High School District is Wednesday, July 18 at the Administrative Center, 21380 Centre Pointe Parkway, Santa Clarita 91350.
July 18: Hart District Governing Board Regular Meeting
The Canyon Country Advisory Committee, a division of the Santa Clarita City Council, will hold its next meeting on Wednesday, July 18, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
July 18: Canyon Country Advisory Committee Meeting
Since April, TMU grad Zach Klindworth has worked and trained with a soccer team in Iceland, 4,000 miles from Santa Clarita, the only city he'd ever known.
TMU Soccer Alum Zach Klindworth Takes Talents to Iceland
The Lancaster JetHawks scored a run in the seventh inning to take the lead and hung on to beat Lake Elsinore, 3-2, Sunday evening at The Hangar.
JetHawks Hang on for Sunday Win Over Storm
Lake Elsinore proved too much for the JetHawks Saturday night, handing Lancaster an 11-4 loss at The Hangar.
Lancaster JetHawks Overcome by Storm Saturday
The Lancaster JetHawks opened up a four-game series with a 6-2 win over the Lake Elsinore Storm in front of 4,348 at The Hangar Friday night to kick off Star Wars Weekend.
The Force With JetHawks in Friday Win Over Storm
Saxtravaganza, Santa Clarita's all-saxophone chamber ensemble, will play a free concert at Hart Hall (inside Hart Park) on Thursday, July 19, starting at 7 p.m.
July 19: Saxtravaganza Chamber Ensemble Returns to Hart Hall
Members of the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clarita Valley will participate in the semi-annual Pinewood Derby at the Newhall Clubhouse on Wednesday, July 18 starting at 4:30 p.m.
July 18: SCV Boys & Girls Club Pinewood Derby
The city of Santa Clarita's Community Preservation Division sent a notice of violation Monday to the owners of the Canyon View Mobile Home Estates property in Canyon Country, ordering the removal of multiple solar panels installed on the hillside just north of the park.
Canyon Country Mobile Home Park Cited for Hillside Solar Panels
Ingrid Moon, a sixth-grade science facilitator at tuition-free public charter school iLEAD Encino, and Kimberli Lengning, a facilitator at iLEAD Lancaster, have been named Distinguished STEM Educators by Columbia University.
iLEAD Science Facilitators Named Distinguished STEM Educators
The city of Santa Clarita has updated the list of productions shooting in the city and the Santa Clarita Valley the week of July 16-22, 2018.
‘Mayans,’ ‘Santa Clarita Diet,’ Spots, Student Films Now Shooting in SCV
The Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District confirmed West Nile virus in a sample of mosquitoes collected from Panorama City (zip code 91402), the first confirmation of WNV activity in the district’s service area this year.
First West Nile Positive Mosquitoes Found – Panorama City
Air quality is very unhealthy for all residents of the Santa Clarita Valley Monday, according to an alert from the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
AQMD: Air Quality Very Unhealthy Monday for SCV Residents
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station deputies arrested a man with an outstanding warrant who was allegedly also in possession of drugs in Stevenson Ranch early Saturday morning.
Golden Valley High School grad U.S. Air Force Airman Victoria A. Arguello has graduated from basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, San Antonio, Texas.
Santa Clarita USAF Airman Victoria Arguello Completes Basic Training
1925 - Actor Harry Carey files patent on the original 160-acre Saugus homestead he'd purchased in 1916 (now Tesoro Del Valle) [story]
1891 - R.E. Nickel publishes area's first newspaper, The Acton Rooster [story]
Stay out of the water at Pyramid Lake in Los Angeles County until further notice and avoid eating fish from the lake due to the presence of blue-green algae.
Algae in Pyramid Lake at ‘Danger’ Level – Keep Out
1769 - Portolá party sets out from San Diego; first Europeans to "discover" Santa Clarita Valley 3½ weeks later [story]
The CTG Stars teenage summer workshop production of "Shrek: The Musical, Jr." takes the stage at the Canyon Theatre Guild in Old Town Newhall for two final performances on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.
July 14-15: CTG Stars Teen Workshop Stages ‘Shrek: The Musical Jr.’
The William S. Hart Museum will host an open house and summer fun event for kids on Thursday, July 19 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
July 19: Open House, Summer Fun Event for Kids at Hart Museum