(WBIR-Morgan County) It won't light up downtown Nashville for two weeks, but the Christmas tree that will take center stage at the state's capitol was trimmed, chopped, loaded, wrapped, and hauled off Friday from Morgan County.
The 55-foot Norway Spruce was chosen from the Cumberland Forest, where the University of Tennessee uses the roughly 8,000 acres of land for research, due to a storm that hit Nashville a few years ago.
"Back in 2009, there was a windstorm that blew over the capitol Christmas tree. And urgent word was put out that they needed a replacement and quick," said Martin Schubert, manger of the Cumberland Forest. "We started looking around the property and submitted a few pictures of some trees we have around here."
The state capitol had been using a donated tree, but 2013 is East Tennessee's time to shine, as it will take center stage for the annual lighting in two weeks.
The giant spruce was planted at the Cumberland Forest in 1985 after it was used in another University of Tennessee study on growing Christmas trees on abandoned strip mines.
"We grew and studied those sites and when we were through with that study we brought this tree down and transplanted it down to this location sort of as a symbol of that research," said Richard Evans, who planted the tree and serves as director emeritus of the Forest Resources Agriculture Research and Education Center.
Evans said the research proved Christmas tree crops can successfully grow on those old sites with conditioning and reshaping of the land.
As for why the Norway Spruce was chosen, Evans said it was all about looks.
"Mainly because of its form, size, and shape," said Evans. "And it looks very much like a Christmas tree, only a big Christmas tree."
Crews trimmed off 30 feet of branches, hooked it up to a crane, chopped it at the trunk, and gently lowered it onto a lowboy truck.
The tree was going to be chopped down anyway since its height blocks sunlight to other trees that are a part of a separate research project.
"I'm really pleased to see it being used and having a second life for a brief period of time," said Evans.
"We're tickled that there's actually a purpose for this," said Schubert. "It's going to be utilized for something, something as good as representing the State of Tennessee at the capitol."
Crews sprayed the needles to keep them from burning on the roughly 120-mile trip to Nashville. They wrapped it in a blue tarp before TDOT hauled it off from the forest.
The 61st Annual Nashville Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting Ceremony is set for December 6th at 6:30 p.m. Central Standard Time.