Iron River sends Capitol Christmas tree on its way


Staff Writer

IRON RIVER – It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Iron River on Wednesday.

Not only was the snow falling, but it was time to harvest the 2013 Michigan Capitol Christmas tree.

Approximately 800 spectators were on hand as crews from the Michigan Association of Timbermen and the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association cut down the 68-foot tall blue spruce donated by residents Jonny and Barbara Waara.

Crews cut the tree at about 9:30 a.m.

After hauling it by crane to a flatbed trailer, they spent the rest of the morning and afternoon preparing it for the 465-mile journey to Lansing. There, the tree will be displayed in front of the Capitol building throughout the holiday season.

Guests at Wednesday’s event included representatives from Governor Rick Snyder’s office, Iron River Mayor Terry Tarsi, students from both West Iron County Schools and Forest Park Schools, the West Side Veterans Council color guard, and relatives of the man who planted the Waaras’ tree decades ago.

Dawn Ruzziconi’s grandfather James Harding purchased the lot that now belongs to the Waaras in 1920, and he planted the tree sometime after. By chance, Ruzziconi and her daughter Alexis Beemer were in town while the harvest ceremony was taking place.

Denny Olson of the Michigan Association of Timbermen told the guests and onlookers that community involvement is key in the annual harvest ceremony.

“This is my twelfth tree,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve ever been accepted and had the help that we’ve had here in Iron River.”

The Waaras’ tree will be the 28th Michigan Capitol Christmas tree. Nineteen of the 28 trees were from the Upper Peninsula.

The tree is scheduled to arrive in Lansing on Saturday. There will be a tree lighting ceremony on Friday, Nov. 22 as part of the annual Silver Bells in the City event.

After the holiday season, the tree will be put to good use.

Lauren Leeds of the Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget (DTMB) said that parts of the tree’s trunk will be cut off into “cookies” and given to the people involved in the tree donation process.

Some cookies were already cut during Wednesday’s ceremony.

The Lansing Parks Department usually takes the rest of the tree and turns it into useful products like wood chips, Leeds added.

Collaborating on the annual Capitol Christmas tree selection process are the DTMB, the Michigan Association of Timbermen, and the Great Lakes Timber Professionals.

Helping with this year’s harvest were Hilberg Logging of Crystal Falls, Hebert Construction of Iron River, and Piwarski Brothers Logging of Iron River.

Nikki Younk’s e-mail address is