St. Edward family donates tree to Nebraska State Capitol for Christmas

December 5, 2018

You can’t miss it.

That’s what Ron Benson of St. Edward said about his 35-foot tree. Located on his property right outside of St. Edward, it will soon be on display in the rotunda at the Nebraska State Capitol building for this year’s holiday season.

The white fir, also known as a concolor fir, was planted more than 30 years ago by Ron’s father, Allen Benson. With only a handful of trees from the grove remaining and soon to be removed, Ron said he was happy to give the tree a proper send off.

“I am very very pleased, very pleased that it’s going to be there for its last stand,” Ron Benson said.

Ron’s brother from Genoa, also named Allen Benson, recalled his father’s passion for growing trees. While his father passed away in 1997, he said he would be “tickled to death” to see one of his prized trees up on display in Lincoln.

“My dad used to stand there and water it with the garden hose for hours on end,” Allen Benson said about the tree. “I’m going to hate to see it go. To me, that was dad standing there, because it’s the only thing left of him. To me, that was dad.”

Ron said he contacted state officials on a whim to see if they would be interested in the tree a few years ago. Horticulturist Supervisor Craig Kreiner soon got in contact with him and drove out to see the tree for himself. There was a bit of a backlog, so the tree was selected for 2018.

“Well, I thought he was exaggerating,” Ron Benson said about the wait. “(But) it worked out.”

Kreiner said only one out of every 15 trees he inspects are suitable for the Capitol building Christmas trees. A tree’s size and location are major factors in the selection decision. In 45 years, Kreiner said this is the furthest he’s ever traveled for a Capitol Christmas tree.

“I felt that these people pay taxes just like we do back east,” Kreiner said. “So I thought it would be nice to come out here and represent our state.”

The tree was cut down on Tuesday and has since been transported to the state Capitol building. Kreiner said it will be put up on Thursday, decorated on Friday and officially unveiled to the public this weekend.

The annual Capitol Tree Lighting Ceremony will take place from 2-3 p.m. on Sunday at the Nebraska State Capitol Building, 144 K St., in Lincoln. There will be musical performances from the Bell Choir of Concordia College, the Waverly Singers and the All City Girls Choir. Gov. Pete Ricketts will give a speech to the audience and the entire event will be radio broadcasted on KFOR, 1240 AM.

Kreiner said next year’s tree will be coming from Seward.

Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at eric.schucht@lee.net.

Update hourly