By Jimmy Orr
Things were busy for Wyoming native Rob Wallace on Dec. 5 as he took part in hist first lighting of the National Christmas Tree as an assistant secretary for the Department of Interior.
Wallace, confirmed as assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife in July, joined three other speakers — including President Donald Trump — in the annual 90-minute lighting.
Wallace joined Trump, Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt, and National Park Service Director David Vela in making comments during the ceremony.
“On a scale of one to ten, behind the president, the secretary of Interior and the director of the Park Service, my speech will be in a solid fourth place,” Wallace said.
Wallace was asked to give closing remarks at the ceremony — which has often occurred during less than ideal weather conditions.
This past Thursday, the weather gods smiled upon event-goers as temperatures were in the mid-40s with no wind. And the thousands of people who showed up cheered loudly when the president and First Lady Melania Trump pushed a button which lighted the 30-foot live Colorado Spruce from Palmyra, Pennsylvania.
Yes, the tree is alive. For now. Wallace explained that a fairly new practice is to transplant a tree instead of cutting it down.
“It happened between 10 to12 years ago,” he said. “The Park Service passed an initiative to make the tree permanent. Sometimes there are transplant issues and the tree doesn’t make it. We hope this new tree from Pennsylvania will be here for a long time.”
The State of Wyoming has supplied the National Christmas Tree just once. That was back in 1972. It was a 75-foot Engelmann spruce from Medicine Bow National Forest.
That doesn’t mean Wyoming doesn’t participate, however. Years ago, smaller trees representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories were planted on the Ellipse where the ceremony is held.
These identical trees stand about 5 feet tall now and are decorated by school kids from their respective states.
For Wyoming’s tree, the honor this year went to the Wyoming Indian School, where middle school students created transparent globe-like ornaments with a bucking bronco inside each one.
“It’s indescribable to be part of this tradition,” Wallace said. “It’s an important symbol of the start of a very festive holiday observed throughout the world. It celebrates the best of America.”
A replay of the ceremony will be broadcast on Ovation TV Monday, Dec. 9, at 7 p.m. Mountain Time.