On Monday morning, a truck with a 45-foot white spruce tree on its trailer was parked outside George Weatherbee Elementary School in Hampden.
The spruce, from northern Nova Scotia, will soon go up in Boston Common for the holiday season, and the city will celebrate its arrival with a tree lighting ceremony Dec. 5.
The tree is this year’s gift from the Canadian province to the city of Boston, an annual tradition since 1971 . But before the tree goes up in Boston, the students at George Weatherbee on Monday had the chance to see it up close as it made its way south.
Every year, the Canadian province gives the gift of a Christmas tree to Boston as a thank you to the city for its prompt aid after a deadly explosion Dec. 6, 1917, in Halifax Harbour left thousands dead and injured.
On Monday, Nova Scotia Department of Transportation employees David MacFarlane and Sheldon Garland stopped at the school at the invitation of Noel March. The chief of police at the University of Southern Maine first saw the tree at Dysart’s in Hermon in 2016, and since then has invited MacFarlane and Garland to make a stop in the Bangor area every year before continuing on their 600-mile trip to Massachusetts.
This year, March invited McFarlane and Garland to his daughter’s elementary school to talk about their journey, from the tree-cutting ceremony in Nova Scotia to the trip down to Boston. The tree this year was provided by Desmond Waite and Corina Saunders of Trenton, which is located in Pictou County, Nova Scotia.
“We look forward to this every year,” McFarlane told the students.
When March told Weatherbee Principal Jen Cyr about the tree, she thought the message behind the annual gift offered a valuable lesson for the elementary-school students.
“It really is a tremendous story of perseverance and international friendship,” she said. “You can never say thank you enough. That is a message every member of our learning community needs to hear.”
Before the students went outside to see the tree, they heard about the history of the explosion and Boston’s response.
“Every year now, for the last 48 years, [Nova Scotia] sends a tree to Boston,” said Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, who attended the Weatherbee assembly. “On the 100th anniversary, they stopped in Augusta and we had quite a ceremony acknowledging each other as friends and neighbors in times of need and in times of goodness. It’s something worth celebrating, and that’s what we’re here to do.”