Montana 4-H Member Lights U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree in 2008

In 2008, as in many previous years, the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree checked in for a three-night stay at National 4-H Youth Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland. On November 21, the 70-foot tree from Montana’s Bitterroot Forest stopped at National 4-H Youth Conference Center before traveling to the U.S. Capitol to become the Capitol Christmas Tree (on the Capitol grounds, not the White House Ellipse). Chris Gabrielson, a 4-H member from Havre, MT, joined Nancy Pelosi, then Speaker of the House of Representatives, to host the official lighting ceremony on December 2, 2008.

Each year, hundreds of students from the Capitol Christmas Tree’s home state enter the Capitol Christmas Tree drawing to receive a free trip to Washington, D.C. and assist the Speaker in lighting the tree. Gabrielson was the lucky winner of the 2008 drawing.

However, Gabrielson wasn’t the only 4-H’er involved with the Capitol tree that year, he and other students in the state of Montana (65 percent of whom were 4-H members) used recyclable materials to create over 5,000 handmade ornaments that decorated the tree. The ornaments reflected the theme “Sharing Montana’s Treasures.” Mountains, Moons and Stars, Big sky Country; Montana wild flowers, Montana’s Wildlife, and some included the 4-H Clover.

4-H History and Christmas in the Nation’s Capital

The National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony, which began on Christmas Eve in 1923, is one of America’s oldest holiday traditions. At the time, President Calvin Coolidge lit a Christmas tree in front of 3,000 spectators on the ellipse in President’s Park. Since then, each succeeding president has carried on the tradition of what now has become a month-long event presented by the National Park Foundation and National Park Service.

As the first Honorary Chairman of the National Committee on Boys’ and Girls’ Club Work (now National 4-H Council), President Calvin Coolidge issued the following 1925 Christmas Address to Boys and Girls:

As you are representative of the organizations of the boys and girls of America who live in or are interested in the open country… I want to extend to all of you a Christmas greeting. It seems a very short time ago that I was a boy and in the midst of farm life, myself, helping to do the chores at the barn, working in the corn and potato fields, getting in the hay and in the springtime… making maple sugar.
I did not have any chance to profit by joining a scout organization or a 4-H Club. That chance ought to be a great help to the boys and girls of the present day. It brings them into association with each other in a way where they learn to think not only of themselves, but of other people. It teaches them to be unselfish. It trains them to obedience and gives them self-control. It is in all these ways that boys and girls are learning to be men and women, to be respectful to their parents, to be patriotic to their country, and to be reverent to God. It is because of the great chance that American boys and girls have in all these directions that to them, more than to the youth of any other country, there should be a Merry Christmas.
Calvin Coolidge

Hot August Summer – “Cool” 4-H Happenings!

Hot August Summer – “Cool” 4-H Happenings!
One of the “coolest” happenings this hot August was the National 4-H FilmFest in Branson, MO; something we can legitimately call “Contemporary 4-H History.” For the first time, this year’s line-up of 38 “youth-made” films from eight states included a category of “4-H History.” Four states (MO, SC, UT, and VT) submitted in the History category. Jordon Bolinger of SC, the only history winner able to attend 4-H Filmfest this year, won third place in the 4-H History category with her “4-H Camp Sew” film. Read further for the first and second place winners.
VT and UT took slightly different approaches to document “Voices of 4-H History.” In VT, the Champlain Shamrocks 4-H Club used to identify people they wanted to interview, and used Windows Movie Maker for the editing. Their film, “Voices of VT 4-H History” took second place in the National 4-H FilmFest. UT members dug into their personal family histories for stories and used iMovie to edit. Amanda Jones’s “4-H History Preservation – LaRee Jones” (her grandmother) won first place at Branson. Are you thinking of entering a 4-H History film in the 2014 FilmFest? Contact