With summer in full swing, most people aren’t thinking about Christmas yet.

But for the people tasked with choosing a national Christmas tree, the deadline is fast approaching, and they’re looking to the Willamette National Forest.

Oregon is known for its trees, so you’d think finding a Christmas tree here would be a simple task… right?

Not so much, says Jim Kaufmann, director of the Capitol Grounds and Arboretum at the Architect Capitol.

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“It’s almost like finding a needle in a haystack,” Kaufmann said.

This isn’t the first year the Capitol Christmas Tree has come from Oregon. In 2002, the Capitol Tree came from the Umpqua National Forest. This year’s tree is coming from the Willamette National Forest.

Kaufmann says it’s his job to choose the tree that will stand on the Capitol’s west lawn.

He says he is impressed by the diversity and beauty of the Willamette national forest. The tree, however, will have to meet certain specifications.

“Typically, we’re looking somewhere maybe around 70 feet tall and somewhere in the area of 30 feet wide,” Kaufmann said.

The tree has to be big enough to stand out next to the capitol building but small enough to fit on a tractor-trailer for the cross-country journey to Washington, D.C.

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“To find that perfect tree that will look good from 360 degrees, can’t have a bad side to it,” Kaufmann said. “That’s a challenge. That’s a real challenge.”

Forestry officials have narrowed the search down to five finalist trees. They are all either a Douglas Fir, a Grand Fir or a Noble Fir.

After the tree is chosen, forestry officials say they have to decorate it. They’re looking for people to help.

Nikki Swanson with the Forest Service Sweet Home Ranger District says they need 2,000 large ornaments.

“We could really, really use the public’s help in making the large ornaments,” Swanson said.

Kaufmann says he will select the Capitol Tree sometimes this week.

As for his own Christmas tree this year…

“I got an artificial,” Kaufmann said, laughing.

Read more about creating ornaments for the tree at Capitol Christmas Tree website.

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