Nation’s Christmas tree will have a New Mexico flair

By Marlena Hartz

Harvested from the Santa Fe National Forest, an 80-foot spruce is going on a long road trip east to the nation’s capitol. It is the latest in a long line of trees chosen for holiday display near the Washington Monument.

And to adorn its branches are more than 3,000 ornaments handcrafted by New Mexico school students.
The students had just one guideline — ornaments should reflect the Land of Enchantment.

At Melrose, that meant wooden steer-head ornaments.
“We’re kinda out here in the country and we have lots of cattle and stuff, so this was a pretty good idea,” explained seventh-grade Melrose student Hayden Moore.

At Bella Vista and Sandia in Clovis, Zia symbol and chili pepper ornaments were the choice.
At Clovis’ Lockwood Elementary, it was a Styrofoam New Mexico flag.

Clovis Municipal School students produced 1,237 ornaments combined, more than any other district in New Mexico, according to Clovis Schools Deputy Superintendent Ladona Clayton and Instruction Department assistant Carol Dorazio.

“I am so proud of these schools for stepping up and making such a notable contribution. The students did an excellent job of representing their creativity and reflecting the Southwest flavor of New Mexico,” said Clayton, her office space filled Monday with ornaments awaiting the 1,000-mile-plus journey to Washington.

New Mexico will also donate more than 65 smaller trees to decorate government offices in Washington, according to

It is the state’s second holiday contribution to the country — the Carson National Forest provided the Capitol Holiday Tree in 1991.

“I think the tree will represent New Mexico very well because it comes from our children’s hearts,” said Clovis elementary art teacher Teresa Jaehnke.

The student-made decorations will be sent to old homes and charitable organizations after Christmas, according to

Students and teachers who helped make the decorations are eligible for a trip to Washington.

New Mexico got its repeat Capitol Hill invitation because few states can grow a tree large enough to meet capitol lawn standards, said Suzanne Probart, executive director of Tree New Mexico, a non-profit organization that partnered with Santa Fe National Forest to provide Washington with the trees.

Capitol Trees are traditionally more than 60 feet tall. This spruce measures 80 feet.

The spruce was discovered — and chosen from nine others eligible for the position — at 8,500 feet above sea level. It took two whole days to survey the candidates.

Probart said the 90-year-old Engleman spruce will travel through 18 New Mexico communities on a 12-day tour before it arrives Nov. 22 on Capitol turf. A sealed water tank will provide the massive tree with the 50 gallons of water it uses per day, Probart said.