Lansing Receives State's Official Christmas Tree

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DETROIT (AP) -- A 61-foot mighty blue spruce that didn't start its life with much promise nearly a half-century ago was delivered Saturday to the Capitol lawn as Michigan official Christmas tree.

Found in the middle of a two-lane highway in 1955, the tree donated by Jerry and Beverly Kilburn of Houghton Lake was hoisted in Lansing one day after being chopped down roughly 110 miles north on the family's property. The tree was selected by state officials after nominations were taken from across Michigan.

Beverly Kilburn, 73, said her father noticed the tree lying in the middle of Old 27 after apparently falling off a truck.

"He went out there and got it -- and that orphan tree turned into the state Christmas tree," Kilburn told The Associated Press by phone from her home.

Kilburn said she and her 71-year-old husband were approached about their tree honored to donate it. They were excited that a school band and elementary school students showed up Friday armed with poems about the tree.

Making the event even more special, she said, is that Saturday was the couple's 51st wedding anniversary.

"I said, `I'll tell you what, fellas, this is an anniversary present for us,"' Kilburn said she told the timber crew, adding that she asked them to return with a little replacement spruce and they agreed.

The state typically seeks a spruce or fir tree that's about 65 feet tall, with a maximum crown of 30 feet and a maximum 30-inch trunk diameter. It should be available at no cost and must have easy access from a road with no interference from wires.

The Michigan Association of Timbermen and Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association helped cut and transport the tree at no cost to the state. Lansing-based Hi-Ball Co. volunteered a crane and crew to set the tree.

A tree-lighting ceremony is scheduled for Nov. 18 as part of the 27th annual Silver Bells in the City celebration. The tree-lighting has been part of the event since its third year.

The event includes a parade and a performance by Radio Disney pop star Cody Simpson. It culminates with a fireworks display over the Capitol dome, as long as weather permits.

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