Preview the National Christmas Tree Site

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[Note: Click here for details about National Christmas Tree events and performances]

The National Christmas Tree of course is the star of the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony and the month-long pathway to peace program.

But surrounding it you'll see 56 state and territorial trees, ah -- one for every state in the union, territories, and the District of Columbia

Off to our side here, you'll see the National Christmas Tree Railroad which is a volunteer group of the National Park Service, who for over 25 years have decorated the base of the National Christmas Tree with model trains.

A definitely fan favorite of family visits.

Also, you're seeing the setup for the opening ceremony.

As we travel around the tree you'll see the daytime decorations, which are gold stars, all LED lit at night.

They are designed so they have a metallic background, so during the day they catch the light and give sort of a sparkle since we don't have lights on during the day. And then at night, they reflect a little bit of the LEDs to give a little bit of a twinkle to it as well. Overall, the tree this year has 450 strands of LED lights. Those are both red and green, which are modeled after the 1923 tree.

And walking up, in front of us is Santa's Workshop, where Santa and his elves will be here throughout the month of December for families, youth, children, to uh, make their wish to Santa Claus and take home a souvenir photo -- um -- after their visit to the Christmas Tree site.

A few wayside panels -- uh -- that are in front of us here are a little bit on the history of the National Christmas Tree.

The Christmas tree today is a live tree. We actually transplanted this tree back in October of this year.

This is a 30-foot Colorado blue spruce that we are looking at today.

In the past, we decorated directly on the tree with lights and ornaments. This year out of concern for the health of the tree -- it's a new tree -- we came up with a new plan.

There's a pole that comes up the trunk of the tree, topped off with a platform right below the star. We've attached steel cable down to the ground, so all the lights, all the weight is being supported by the pole, the steel cables, rather than on the tree.

The setting up of the National Christmas Tree site is sort of a partnership between many organizations.

We have volunteers like the National Christmas Tree Railroad.

We have National Park Service employees from our sister park the National Mall and Memorial Parks working on the press risers right now.

We have President's Park Staff who lay out all the sidewalks and fencing and then we have the National Park Foundation, our partner that coordinates with the production company for the opening event, the staging, the rigging, the IMAX screens and all the ways that visitors are going to participate in the opening ceremony.

Musical programs will happen on the stage right in front of us, which isn't finished yet. It'll definitely look prettier on opening day.

We'll also bring in approximately 25 park rangers from sister parks in the National Capitol Region, so it's truly a National Park Service family event, to staff and share the National Christmas Tree with our local community and and the world.

Last edited 4/26/2016