While other Girl Scouts were hiking and making friendship bracelets this summer, three Tri-City troops were getting into the Christmas spirit.
They were making Christmas tree skirts and ornaments to decorate the nation's capitol.
The Scouts began their holiday planning after a tree in Washington's Colville National Forest was chosen as the 2013 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree.
This is the second time in history a tree from Washington state has been selected for the honor.
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The 88-foot Engelmann spruce from Pend Oreille County will be cut Nov. 1 and shipped it to Washington, D.C. The journey takes several weeks with stops in various communities, arriving in time for Thanksgiving.
But some of the ornaments to decorate it are already on their way east. So are some 30 tree skirts made by members of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho council for some of the 80 smaller companion trees that decorate other government offices.
When Washington was selected to donate what's known as "The People's Tree," one of the council's volunteers had the idea to ask the troops to make Washington-themed ornaments and skirts.
"When she approached the council we all said yes. The idea was just such a good fit for us," said Peggy McDonald, outreach coordinator for the Girl Scout council.
An overall theme -- Sharing Washington's Good Nature -- was chosen and the word sent out to all 4,500 members of the council.
Three troops -- 3547, 4596 and 4528 -- in the Tri-Cities took up the challenge.
Troop 3547's tree skirt focused on the Columbia Valley.
"The girls embellished it with paintings of a fruit stand, apples, cherries, and grapes; wildlife included lots of salmon and sturgeon; and people including Sacajawea, a woman scientist from Hanford, a farmer and, of course, a Girl Scout," said Troop Leader Elizabeth Lugo of Richland.
Apples was the focus of Troop 4596's tree skirt.
"We decided to do something in one general theme but to play with it, to use different mediums," said Troop Leader Julie Carpenter.
She contacted the parents of the 20 first-graders in her troop and about six to eight girls and parents attended and worked on their apples together, others worked at home.
"It was great," Carpenter said. "One made an appliqu showing apple cider, another a felt apple with a worm going through it, one made an apple out of buttons and one made an apple with actual dried apple chips."
With the tree skirts sent on their way to D.C., the Scouts began making ornaments for "The People's Tree."
McDonald said the council collected more than 1,000 ornaments from troops throughout Eastern Washington.
"They were all Washington-themed," McDonald said. "We had orca whales, gold finches and some beautiful rhododendrons. There was a huge variety, some were even wine cork based."
Troop 4596 made sturdy, weather-resistant ornaments on a wood base about the size and shape of a ruler.
"Julie had all the girls bring in wrapping paper, ribbons, buttons, anything to embellish their piece," said Jen Brazo, a parent assistant for the troop.
They decoupaged them with the paper, tied the ribbons round and round and glued the buttons and other trinkets on.
"It was a great project. The kids had a lot of fun with it and it got the moms involved," Brazo said, adding, "of course there was some clean up involved."
Students ages 5-19 who submitted ornaments were entered to win a trip to Washington, D.C., to light the tree with House Speaker John Boehner at a ceremony in early December, according to the official website, http://capitolchristmastree.com.
-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; firstname.lastname@example.org