Larry “Hollywood” Spiekermeier, as he has been affectionately named by his pilot crew, is well on his way to Washington, D.C. with a special Christmas tree in tow.
The 70-year-old Plains resident and long-haul truck driver has been tasked with driving this year’s Capitol Christmas Tree from the Kootenai National Forest to the U.S. Capitol’s West Front Lawn. He set out on his journey last week with celebratory stops at Eureka and Whitefish on Nov. 13, Libby, Troy and Trout Creek on Nov. 14, and Thompson Falls, Plains and Missoula on Nov. 15.
“It’s been an amazing trip so far,” said Spiekermeier’s wife, Mary Ann, who is co-pilot on the cross-country trip.
“The support of the people and our town just grabs your heart,” she added.
Spiekermeier has not only become a celebrity overnight but was overjoyed to have been able to stop into his hometown last week as he begun the 3,000-mile journey.
“It’s just such a wonderful thing being able to drive the tree. I’ve really enjoyed seeing the smiles on each of the kid’s faces,” said Spiekermeier.
Though officially the only two stops for Sanders County locals were Trout Creek and Thompson Falls, Spiekermeier put in the special request for Plains.
“You know the town went through a really tough month in October with the loss of a local teacher. So I wanted to not only be able to bring the tree for the kids to enjoy but for the whole community to have something special to experience,” added Spiekermeier.
Spiekermeier was accompanied by his cousin Donna Redmond for the short trip between Thompson Falls and Plains. The Hot Springs resident was overjoyed when thy pulled up in front of huge crowd at the Plains School on Wednesday afternoon.
“It was like riding in a Cadillac,” said Redmond of the trip from Thompson Falls to Plains.
Adding that it was so great to have such an experience and that Spiekermeier is just a great guy.
Plains residents signed a banner on the truck and grabbed a photo next to the nearly 100-foot-long trailer where the Christmas tree could be seen inside a Plexiglass box.
“This is a great thing for Plains. Larry Spiekermeier made it all happen and you need to take your hat off to him,” said Charlie McCrea of the special event.
“This is the most excitement that Plains has seen for a while. This is so fun,” said Cindy Gray, who also attended the event.
Local Montana Highway trooper Steve Spurr was also grateful to be a part of the special run. Though he only had a short trip compared to others along the long route, he said it was a privilege.
“It’s pretty cool. A once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s pretty neat to be invited to help out with something like this,” said Spurr.
Redmond would swap out the co-pilot seat with Spiekermeier’s wife.
“Missoula was our first stop together and there was nearly 2,000 people. It’s just amazing seeing how many people line the streets or come out to see Larry and the tree,” Mary Ann said.
Adding that not only is she proud of her superstar husband, but the businesses that sponsored the trip have gone above and beyond in giving them comfort and ease of traveling.
Plains School Superintendent Thom Chisholm was undoubtably one of the biggest “kids” on the day in anticipation of the special event.
“Let me start out by saying merry Christmas and happy holidays! We have quite a gathering of citizens and townspeople today. Sally’s [the Plains School secretary] phone has been ringing off the hook with people asking when the tree is coming. We want everyone to be able to see the tree and to have a good day,” he said before the event.
The town remains in a buzz, waiting for the arrival of Montana’s special tree at Washington D.C.
“We are thankful for the opportunity to be able to help escort this tree through Sanders County. It will represent Montana well in Washington D.C.,” said Sanders County Sheriff Tom Rummel.
“We’re making our little town proud here today. The joy on the faces of the people I was hoping it would be like this and it turned out how I wanted it,” expressed Spiekermeier of his hometown stop.
The celebratory tour with the tree was to continue to Central and Eastern Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Missouri, Kentucky and Maryland before arriving at the Capitol on Nov. 27. For a complete event list, visit www.capitolchristmastree.com.