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Christmas Homecoming

By: Brad Bentley

Brad Bentley

A University of Alabama graduate with a degree in Broadcast Journalism, Bentley spent 15 years as a trucking Publisher before becoming the Editorial Director for Randall-Reilly's Recruiting Media division.


Capitol Christmas Tree visits the Mack Trucks Customer Center

Last month, Brad Bentley documented the transport of the 2013 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, which was safely delivered to Washington, D. C. on the Monday prior to Thanksgiving.

After a lighting ceremony on December 3, the tree was on display on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol building throughout the Christmas season. This holiday tradition has been possible for the past several years due to the generosity of Mack Trucks, who donates equipment to haul the tree from a designated national forest. Along the way, “whistle stops” allow citizens from all across the U.S. to view the tree and sign banners placed on the sides of the 80-foot Hale Trailer that houses this precious cargo.

One of the most special whistle stops occurs in Allentown, PA, home to Mack Trucks’ Customer Center, which anchors a 65-acre property that includes a two-lane test track, cafe, and museum. This stunning facility was built in 2010 and showcases the history of one of America’s iconic manufacturers.

The center has also become a popular tourist destination, hosting several thousand visitors each year, but tonight it displayed Christmas spirit in addition to American ingenuity.

Mack the Bulldog greeted guests upon arrival

Mack the Bulldog greeted guests upon arrival

“Mack’s 113-year history, coupled with our dedication to building all of our products for the North American market in the U.S.A. right here in the Lehigh Valley, gives us immense pride,” said John Walsh, Mack vice president of marketing. “The Capitol Christ­mas Tree is an American tradition, and we are very proud to share it with our employees, their families and the surrounding community.”

Visitors were welcomed by a live, antler-wearing Mack the Bulldog, who was positioned just outside Mack’s 24-seat movie theater, where the company’s history and images of its trucks in films and on television shows normally play for visitors. However, in keeping with the holiday theme, the theater was airing holiday movies on this evening.

Lindsay Lawler and Chris Roberts singing “Standing Tall”

Lindsay Lawler and Chris Roberts singing “Standing Tall”

Once inside the larger space containing the Capitol Christmas Tree truck, guests were greeted by Santa Claus, who set up shop next to a face painting station and an area for people to enjoy free hot chocolate and cookies. Smokey Bear and members of the U.S. Forest Service who traveled with the tree were also on hand to answer any questions about the 88-foot-tall Engelmann Spruce which originated from the Colville National Forest in Washington State.

According to Jennifer Knutson, 2013 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Coordinator, the tree was nicknamed “Bruce the Spruce” this year. And Bruce proved popular on this night, as dozens crowded around the truck to snap pictures and view the tree through special windows in the covered trailer.

Santa Claus took present requests from children.

Santa Claus took present requests from children.

Attendees were also in for a special treat, as the Christmas music being played over the loudspeakers was replaced by a live performance by Lindsay Lawler and Chris Roberts, who co-wrote the song “Standing Tall” for the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. Lawler, who is also the spokesperson for TCA’s Highway Angel program, had just completed a 26-city truck stop concert tour a few weeks prior to the Mack event. She also performed at whistle stops in Nashville and Andrews Air Force Base before singing at the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree lighting ceremony.

Lawler said the Allentown visit was a wonderful day and that she was honored to have spent the Capitol Christmas Tree event with the good people of the Mack family. “The Mack Customer Center is hands down one the nicest facilities I have ever gotten a chance to spend time at. And most importantly, the warmth and welcome of their employees and families was so inspiring and spoke volumes to the institution that is Mack Trucks,” Lawler stated. “Plus, I can finally say I have driven a fully-loaded semi thanks to Dan Danko and their test track, and of course the fact that it was an automatic!”

Dan Danko, Director of Marketing, presents a commemorative Mack bulldog hood ornament to (l to r) Gaylon Baker and Duane Brusseau, the truck drivers who transported the 2013 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree.

Dan Danko, Director of Marketing, presents a commemorative Mack bulldog hood ornament to (l to r) Gaylon Baker and Duane Brusseau, the truck drivers who transported the 2013 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree.

However, Lawler’s test laps paled in comparison to the cross-country journey of the 2013 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. By the time professional driver Duane Brusseau piloted the custom-decorated 2014 MACK® Pinnacle™ Axle Back model to Allentown, the tree had visited more than 20 cities and traveled almost 5,000 miles.

Charles Dickens, who is best remembered for A Christmas Carol, a novel that renewed enthusiasm for the joys of Christmas in Britain and America, once said that every traveler has a home of his own, and he learns to appreciate it the more from his wandering. I think the Dickens quote is appropriate after witnessing the appreciation on display at the Mack Trucks Customer Center during the 2013 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree’s brief visit.

The event illustrated a sense of community and was truly a holiday homecoming to remember.

Smokey Bear and members of the U.S. Forest Service mingled with attendees.

Smokey Bear and members of the U.S. Forest Service mingled with attendees.

Editor’s Note: Randall-Reilly, who operates this website, was proud to be the trucking media sponsor for the 2013 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree project. In addition to the equipment provided by Mack Trucks and Hale Trailers, several other companies from the trucking industry were sponsors of 2013 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, including the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA), and Skybitz. Pilot Flying J Travel Centers, TCA, Randall-Reilly and Red Eye Radio also co-hosted whistle stop events in various cities. 

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