3 donated trees, including 'Fat Albert,' part of holiday displays at West Virginia Capitol



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CHARLESTON, West Virginia — A tree dubbed Fat Albert is coming to the state Capitol for a holiday display.

The 17-foot blue spruce whose catalog nickname comes from the cartoon character grew in Molly Gill's yard in the Kanawha County community of Pratt for 18 years before it was donated for public viewing at the Capitol complex in Charleston.

"I'm going to miss it," Gill said. "It's really bare out there right now."

State Department of Administration spokeswoman Diane Holley-Brown said Gill's donated tree will be on display at the north fountain at the Capitol. Another donated tree will adorn the south side of the Capitol, and a third tree will go up at the governor's mansion.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will lead a lighting ceremony Dec. 2 as part of the annual Joyful Night celebration.

Gill, a retiree, said she became interested in gardening because her mother had always planted trees and rose bushes and bought items from a South Carolina nursery. Gill said one day she looked at a catalog and ordered the blue spruce.

"They said it wouldn't get any more than 8 feet tall and 8 feet wide," Gill said. "And they called it Fat Albert. So that's what we named the tree. I planted it in the yard and it just took off. It was so happy out there.

"I loved the tree because the cardinals would nest in it in the spring and the rabbits would hide underneath it and the cats would wait on the birds. It was a nature study."

A Norway spruce donated by Jack Cavender for the Capitol's south plaza holiday display didn't have to travel far. The 35-foot tree was removed from the home of his late mother and father, Jean and Jerill Cavender of Charleston.

Jack Cavender said the spruce originally was bought from the Charleston Capitol Market in the late 1980s with its roots intact for use as a Christmas tree indoors before it was planted outside.

"I just said it's time to do something in honor of them," Jack Cavender said. "It kind of outgrew the space and I tried to figure out a way to appropriately use the tree as opposed to cutting it down. I was going by the Capitol one year and was looking at those (holiday) trees and I said that would be the perfect thing."

The Christmas tree at the governor's mansion will come from a familiar source. Al Tolliver's Fayette County farm started providing trees for the mansion's display in 2011. This year a Fraser Fir is being donated from the farm on behalf of the West Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association, of which Tolliver is a board member.

Tolliver also sells trees and wreaths for holiday displays out of the Charleston Capitol Market.

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