Craig Kreiner of the State Building Division says it took a few more tugs than expected Monday to nudge the 25-foot-tall blue spruce through the Capitol doors en route to its place of honor in the Capitol Rotunda.
After 40 years of selecting holiday trees for the Capitol and overseeing their delivery, Kreiner said he knew all along the 30-year-old tree, estimated at 15 feet wide, would fit through the north doorway, which measures just 6 feet wide by 7 feet tall. “I knew we would get in in there, but I thought it would go a lot easier than it did,” he said. The state horticulturalist supervisor said he didn’t want to cut any branches from the perfectly shaped tree.
Guiding the tree with ropes were about 35 men Kreiner recruited from the Capitol maintenance and carpenter shops and the maintenance crew at the State Office Building. In the group guiding the tree was Lt. Gov. John Nelson in a white shirt and tie. The operation is a model of cooperation as the truck and boom used to hoist the tree to the main floor came from the State Department of Roads. Before the boom was made available, men pulled the tree up the north steps of the Capitol, a practice that was hard on the tree, the granite steps, and the crew.
This year’s tree came from the yard of Gary and Judy Koch at 2566 Kessler Blvd. in south Lincoln. There it was being crowded out by a pin oak, Kreiner said. The Kochs, who are personal friends of Kreiner, were on hand to see their tree delivered to the Capitol. Gary, a skilled woodcarver, asked for the tree stump.
Kreiner said he relies on Nebraskans to tell him about trees that might be suitable for the Capitol, cautioning that only about one out of 12 to 15 actually fits the need. He inspects every tree brought to his attention, within reasonable travel distance, and he is already preparing to check out a tree in Shelby, Neb., for next year. Aware of all Nebraskans’ connection to the Capitol, he seeks out trees from communities outside Lincoln, and he is still bothered that a tree brought to his attention in Chadron was simply too far away to consider.
Among the visitors to the Capitol on Monday was the Langer family of Lincoln, who came by for a Christmas family photo. “This is a bonus,” said Chris Langer, explaining that he and his family showed up at the Capitol, not knowing about scheduled tree arrival. “We took our own pictures of the tree coming in,” said son Jordan, who sent a photo of the tree to his girlfriend in Washington, D.C. “On our first date, we walked through the Capitol,” Jordan said.
The Capitol tree lighting ceremony will be at 2 p.m. Dec. 7 in the second-floor Rotunda. Also on Dec. 7, the Kennard and Ferguson houses near the Capitol will be open from 1 to 5 p.m. with free admission. The Capitol tree, featuring decorations from Nebraska’s 93 counties, will be the center of attention at the Holiday Tuba Concert, noon Dec. 16, and the Holiday Horns Concert, sponsored by the UNL School of Music, noon Dec. 17.