When visitors to the Pennsylvania Capitol Building visit the rotunda this holiday season, they will be treated to a spectacular view two finely decorated Douglas fir Christmas trees, each 21 feet tall, grown and harvested in Carbon County.
The trees, which will grace both the Capitol Rotunda and the steps leading to the Capitol Building, were grown by Crystal Spring Tree Farm in Lehighton. This is the 18th year that Crystal Spring has supplied the state tree. The farm also supplied the White House Christmas tree in 2006 and 2010, and trees for Rockefeller Center in New York.
Crystal Spring won the honor to supply this year's state tree, and the additional 36 trees that will grace the governor's and lieutenant governor's mansions and executive offices, through a bidding process with the Pennsylvania Tree Grower's Association.
Owner Chris Botek noted that Crystal Spring is one of the few farms in Pennsylvania to grow trees large enough to meet the state's requirements.
"They're huge trees. My dad has always loved big trees, and we've always had big trees," said Botek, who owns and operates the farm with his parents, Francis and Margaret Botek.
It takes patience and luck to grow trees so large. This year's state tree was planted in the field in 1996 and required nearly 20 years of care and pruning. It also survived countless winters and ice storms that can damage limbs; and dry, harsh summers that can burn delicate branches.
"This is a very difficult business to be in, but it's very rewarding," Botek said. "When you have time to slow down and think about what these trees mean to people, it's a great feeling. Christmas morning, that tree is where everything happens. It's a nice time of year."
He noted that families choosing and cutting their own trees on the farm are a welcome sight each year. Because families tend to be loyal to their tree farm, his family enjoys seeing many familiar faces and new additions around the holidays. Still, he said it's a bit humbling to think of a Crystal Spring Tree Farm tree in such a public location.
"Just think of how many people go through the Capitol. And our state Capitol Building is one of the most beautiful in the country," Botek said.
For now, the state tree and each of the trees destined for Harrisburg remain standing in the farm's fields. The trees will be delivered in late November and early December; the largest trees must be bailed and tied by hand.
The two largest trees at the Capitol Building will be lit during a tree lighting ceremony at 5 p.m. Dec. 5. The event is open to the public.