Brusseau has the unique job of hauling a 60-foot Sierra white fir from the Stanislaus National Forest outside of Sonora to Washington D.C., where it will take its place this holiday season as the "People's Tree" on the front lawn of the U.S. Capitol. Along the way, Brusseau and an entourage, including wife Bobbie and armed federal agents, will stop at a number of small towns and big cities to show off the tree at parades, swap meets and skating rinks.
"I feel fortunate to have this" job, said Brusseau, who is a volunteer driver. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. To tour the country for a worthy cause and meet all these people and make a lot of little kids happy, it's kind of overwhelming. "I'm really thrilled about this whole thing."
The holiday tour unofficially kicked off as the 118-year-old tree was paraded through downtown Sonora hours after being cut down.
California was selected this year by the U.S. Forest Service to provide the Capitol Christmas Tree. The U.S. Forest Service has provided the official tree since 1970.
The convoy will also collect and deliver 5,000 handmade ornaments from children and adults in California, which will be placed on the tree in time for the lighting ceremony Dec. 6. The group is also collecting nonperishable foods during the tour of California, which will be delivered during the stop in Gallup, N.M.
To make sure the tree is not a pile of dry pine leaves when it finally arrives at the Capitol, it is carefully placed on its side inside a custom-made cradle that supports the branches, preventing damage while maintaining the tree's shape, according to the Forest Service. The base of the tree has been fitted with a rubber "bladder" that is filled nightly with water. The 8,300-pound tree is expected to absorb about 60 gallons of water daily on its journey to Washington, D.C.
The Forest Service is also providing an online tracking service that allows people to track the tree. The Forest Service credits private donations for making the Capitol Tree program possible.
Once it arrives at the Capitol, the U.S. Capitol architect and a team of workers will spend more than a week decorating the tree with 10,000 LED lights and the thousands of ornaments. The tree will be dropped into a hole 5-feet deep and secured with cement.
"Just being part of this whole thing ... I'm overwhelmed and proud to be doing this," Brusseau said.