The Visalia View

87th Annual Trek to the Nation’s Christmas Tree

Each year the Sanger Chamber of Commerce hosts the annual Trek to the Nation’s Christmas Tree. It’s quite the event, and we bet a lot of you have never been! This year, create a new tradition and visit this snowy, majestic attraction that we’re lucky enough to have sitting in our very own backyard (literally!). You won’t be disappointed! So bundle up and spend the afternoon enjoying this festive event! Keep reading the a history of how the Nation’s Christmas Tree came to be, as well as more details on the Trek, provided by the Sanger Chamber of Commerce.

Trek to “The Nation’s Christmas Tree” History

The General Grant Tree was fittingly named the Nation’s Christmas Tree because of its age and size.  It stands in Grant Grove of the Kings Canyon National Park.  This monarch, in both age and stature, has stood for an estimated 2,000-4,000 years and has grown to the height of 267 feet.  The General Grant Tree was officially dedicated as the Nation’s Christmas Tree on April 28, 1926 by the United States Department of the Interior.

On October 1, 1949, Sanger, California was recognized by the Post Office Department as the Nation’s Christmas Tree City.  Because of such dedication, and because of the work done and interest shown by the citizens of Sanger, California, the Nation’s Christmas Tree has become known nationally and internationally.

Congress, by public law 441, made the General Grant Tree a National Shrine on March 29, 1956.  Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, personal representative of the President of the United States, officially dedicated this tree on November 11, 1956 as a perpetual shrine to our nation’s war dead during a special ceremony at the base of the tree.

The first Christmas service at the base of the tree was inspired by R.J. Senior, then President of the Sanger Chamber of Commerce, and Charles E. Lee, then Secretary of the Sanger Chamber of Commerce, in 1925.  In 1924 R.J. Senior was wandering through the Grant Grove area.  He approached a huge tree, stopped, and stared in awe at the enormous tree.  As he stood looking at nature’s masterpiece, a small girl approached.  After a moment of complete silence she said, mostly to herself, “What a lovely Christmas tree that would be.”  She then turned and ran off into the grove.  They never learned her name, but they couldn’t forget her words.

The following Christmas, Senior, Lee, and some friends trekked over what was then a snow covered dirt road to the park.  They placed some flowers beside the tree and held a short service.

Upon returning home Lee wrote a letter to President Calvin Coolidge.  Four months later, on April 28, 1926, the president adopted Lee’s suggestion and officially designated the General Grant Tree as the Nation’s Christmas Tree.

Ever since 1926 these services have been an annual event.  The service concludes the Christmas Festival Celebration in which the citizens of Sanger and people from all over the world join in stimulating the spirit of “Peace on Earth, Good Will To All Men”.  Each year the crowds gather, they sing, pray, and pay tribute to this wonder of nature.

The members of the National Park Service join in the services by placing a wreath at the base of the tree.  During the war years, when travel was restricted due to gas rationing, there were no official services.  However, a member of the National Park Service walked to the tree and placed a wreath at its base.

The massive giant is large enough to produce enough lumber to construct thirty-five, 5 bedroom homes.  The tree stands 267 feet high, its lowest branch is 130 feet above the ground, and the circumference of its trunk is 107 feet.

Sanger Trek To The Nation’s Christmas Tree Ceremony

Sanger is known as the “Nation’s Christmas Tree City” because we have hosted the “Trek To The Nation’s Christmas Tree Ceremony” every December since 1925, at the General Grant Tree in Kings Canyon National Park, which is the Nation’s Christmas Tree! Join with us as we celebrate this wonderful event as we usher in the Christmas Season in Sanger!

The 87th Annual Trek to the Nation’s Christmas Tree is on Sunday, December 9th, 2012, in Kings Canyon National Park at 2:30pm. Activities will include the Jubilation Singers, Sanger High School Choir, Tubachristmas Ensemble, a non-denominational Christmas Message, and a War Memorial Ceremony, all delivered at the base of the General Grant Tree in Kings Canyon National Park. Chartered buses will leave from the Sanger Chamber of Commerce office. Reservations can be made beginning November 1st by calling the Sanger Chamber of Commerce and will be taken until busses are full. Bus Options include a Trek Service Bus for $25 with a 12:15pm departure, a Lunch Bus with a 10:30am departure for $45, or Dinner Bus with a 12:15pm departure for $45. The lunch and dinner buffet will be held at the Grant Village Restaurant and will feature a traditional Christmas Dinner buffet, appetizers, beverage, dessert, tax and tip. Coffee and pastries will be available for the bus riders at the Chamber office prior to boarding.  Give the Sanger Chamber a call if you want to make reservations as soon as possible. For those wanting to attend the Ceremony and drive up on their own it is advised by the Park Service to always carry tire chains in case of snow. For more information call the Sanger Chamber at 559-875-4575.