Thursday, November 03, 2005

The National Christmas Tree and Model Train

For many people of any age, a Christmas tree just doesn't seem complete without a model train display running around its base. America's National Christmas Tree in Washington DC is no exception and for more than a decade now has had a train chugging along tracks at the base of the tree.

This year, 2005, will be the 82nd year that a tree has been lit and designated as the "National Tree." Lighting will occur at 5 p.m. on December 1st. The tree is found near the White House on the Ellipse. This year will offer entertainment of Ricky Skaggs, Maya Angelou, the United States Navy Band, CeCe Winans, VOENA Children's A Capella Choir, Dale Kristien, Merlin Olsen, and Brad Oscar.

If you plan to attend the opening ceremony for the lighting of the National Christmas Tree, be advised that security will be as tight as with any other gathering in the city. You will need a ticket (given out at the visitor pavilion at the Ellipse. The tickets are free and are being handed out on November 5th starting at 8 a.m.) Keep in mind that the tickets are only for the opening ceremony with the dignitaries present and you will not need a ticket to simply go by to see the display at some other time.

Some other things to remember about security: Do not carry a backpack or duffle bag and do not carry any large container such as a cooler. Do not carry or allow children to carry real or replica ammunition or knives, etc. of any kind. Laser lights are not allowed. If you need to carry something like a diaper bag or use a stroller, it is permitted, but be prepared for a search of things like this. Oh, and one other thing is that you will need to use public transportation such as the metro because there is simply very little parking available this close to the White House.

So back to the model train display! Aristo Craft Trains from New Jersey came up with the idea eleven years ago (actually one of their managers, Mr. Frank) and they decided that if other trees looked unfinished without the model train, so did the National Christmas Tree. The National Park Service allowed it to happen and with the help of a model train club in the area, Mr. Frank built and operated that first display.

The train display will run in 2005 from the opening night ceremony right through to December 30. The display will run in all kinds of weather and it can be seen from 10:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. Volunteers help to clean the tracks and prepare the trains each year so that the train display can continue to make visitors young and old alike smile when visiting the National Christmas Tree.

One other thing to look for when visiting the model train display is the "Pathway of Peace" which is another Washington tradition for more than 50 years now. Around the large National tree, you will find 56 smaller trees that are also decorated. They represent the fifty states, the District of Columbia, and America's five territories.

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