Trek to the Tree Ceremony at Kings Canyon Honors Those Who Kept America Free

Sunday, December 01 2013 17:30   California
Honor the men and women who fought and died for America's freedom when Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks hosts the 88th annual Trek to the Nation's Christmas Tree ceremony on Dec. 8, 2013, from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. at Kings Canyon National Park.

The free event, sponsored by the Sanger District Chamber of Commerce in cooperation with the National Park Service, will include the Jubilation Singers, Sanger High School Choir, Tubachristmas Ensemble, and a non-denominational holiday message.

treewreathceremonyDuring the ceremony, a National Park Service representative will speak about the General Grant Tree's role as a national shrine in memory of the men and women of the armed forces who have served, fought, and died to keep America free.

A memorial wreath will be placed at the base of the General Grant Tree. The ceremony will be held at the General Grant Tree, a quarter-mile walk from an adjacent parking lot. Given limited parking at the grove, a free shuttle service will be available from the Kings Canyon Visitor Center parking area to the Grant Tree Trail.

Rangers advise allowing an extra 30 minutes to use this in-park shuttle service. Access through the entrance to Kings Canyon National Park will be free from 2 to 4 p.m. on Dec. 8 to allow park visitors to attend the event. In addition, chartered buses to the park from Sanger, California, may be available with a fee and by reservation at (559) 875-4575.

To reach Kings Canyon National Park by vehicle, take Highway 180 east from Fresno for approximately 55 miles. For detailed directions, visit

Visitors are strongly advised to check road/weather conditions in advance and/or be prepared for bad weather. Walking surfaces may be slippery and snowy. Travelers should provide additional time to accommodate for weather conditions. Drivers must bring and be prepared to use tire chains or cables, if required. For weather and road condition information, call (559) 565-3341 and press 1.

The General Grant Tree has inspired thousands of people including the late Charles E. Lee of Sanger, California. In 1924 he visited what was then General Grant National Park, and found himself standing by the Grant Tree with a little girl. As they admired the huge tree, the girl exclaimed, "what a wonderful Christmas tree it would be!"

The idea stayed with Mr. Lee, and in 1925 he organized the first Christmas program, held at the Grant Tree at noon on Christmas Day. Mr. Lee, then secretary of the Sanger Chamber of Commerce, and Mr. R.J. Senior, president of the Chamber, conceived the idea of an annual ceremony. Mr. Lee wrote to President Calvin Coolidge, who designated the General Grant as the Nation's Christmas Tree on April 28, 1926.

At one of the early gatherings, Colonel John White, longtime Park Superintendent, expressed the feeling that brings people here year after year.

"We are gathered here around a tree that is worthy of representing the spirit of America on Christmas Day," he said. "That spirit is best expressed in the plain things of life, the love of the family circle, the simple life of the out-of-doors. The tree is a pillar that is a testimony that things of the spirit transcend those of the flesh."

Some people have returned many times to rededicate themselves to the spirit of the season in the presence of this magnificent tree.

For more information about Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, visit or call (559) 565-3341.


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