PHOENIX — A 25-foot-tall (7.6-meter) white pine installed in state Capitol’s executive tower lobby was lit for the first time Wednesday by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey during a celebration marking the start of the holiday season.
The lighting of the Capitol tree is an annual tradition and brings together schoolchildren, state workers and the governor. This year’s celebration featured Christmas carols sung by students from Chandler High School’s choir, the Treblemakers.
Last year’s tree lighting ceremony was forced to be held virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic. Ducey cheered the return to an in-person ceremony, noting that at the time of last year’s lighting vaccines were not available and the state’s economy was just starting to revive from effects of the pandemic shutdowns.
“When you flash forward to today you can see how far we’ve come and how far the state of Arizona has come,” Ducey said. “We’ve distributed the vaccine to more than 4 million people in our state. Our economy is booming and leading the country.”
He added: “We have more people ready to work today than we did before the pandemic and we’ve recovered over 100% of our private sector jobs.”
Also on hand were members of a crew who are rebuilding the old Capitol’s weather-worn and faded copper dome.
Replacing the copper is part of a nearly $12 million project to repair and restore the old Capitol Building approved by the Legislature and Ducey earlier this year. The dome was initially light grey and was sheathed in copper, a mainstay of Arizona’s mining industry, in 1975, then redone again in 2011.
The Christmas Tree was harvested Nov. 19 on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest near Bear Canyon Lake by a crew from the state Department of Forestry and Fire Management.
Ducey closed his remarks by recalling what he said was one of his favorite Christmas season books — “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.
The story follows Ebenezer Scrooge as he is visited by the ghostly spirits of Christmas past, present and future to show him what’s he has done, is doing and what is possible.
“This year I’m hopeful we can take the same approach to the Christmas season,” Ducey said. “Let’s mourn the lives of those we lost during the pandemic.
“Let’s recognize how far we’ve come as a state and as a people,” he said. “And let’s celebrate the bright future ahead of us.”