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Area spruce at center of ceremony

Crews loaded Donald Murray, Sr.'s colorado blue spruce in Shenandoah Farms on October 26 as it began its journey to Washington DC where it became the White House Christmas tree. (Submitted Photo)

Donald Murray Sr. grew national tree on his Warren County farm

By Sally Voth

A Warren County-grown Colorado blue spruce will be the star attraction at Thursday night's National Christmas Lighting Ceremony, in Washington, D.C.

Donald Murray Sr., who lives on Walker Farm Road in the Shenandoah Farms area, planted the tree -- which fronted on Howellsville Road -- 25 years ago.

In a Wednesday interview, Murray said it all began when he was contacted from a representative of The Davey Tree Expert Co. in Chantilly.

"They asked me about the tree, and asked me if I was willing to sell the tree," he said. "At the time, I didn't know who the buyer was."

Murray has lived in his home for 29 years. For most of that time, the blue spruce has been in his front yard. He said it is about 28-30 feet tall.

"I planted that tree back in 1987," he said.

On Oct. 29, the tree was dug up -- roots and all -- put into a planter , laid by crane on a flatbed truck and hauled off to Washington DC.

"What was ironic is it was right before the storm [Sandy]," Murray said. "I think they put it in the ground and secured it with cable hold-downs.

"It had to be [a good-looking tree] for them to pick that particular tree out of the country. I think they were looking basically for the tree to be locally [grown] as far as I guess the same type of soil, and not so far to travel."

Murray and his family will be at the tree-lighting ceremony.

According to www.nationaltree.org, the pre-show and ceremony will start at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. It will be streamed live and then on-demand online. The site states public TV stations will air it starting on Friday.

Actor Neil Patrick Harris will host the event, which also features performers The Fray, Jason Mraz, Phillip Phillips and James Taylor, according to the website.

According to www.recreation.gov, this will be the 90th tree-lighting ceremony. In addition to the National Christmas tree, there will be 56 smaller trees representing the 50 states, Washington DC and five U.S. territories on the Ellipse south of the White House.

Murray thinks there's a good chance he'll meet President Obama at the ceremony, which will include festivities after the lighting.

"It's just one of those things that it's kind of ironic that something like that would happen, but everybody has their 15 minutes of fame," he said.

Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or svoth@nvdaily.com


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