COLUMBIA FALLS — A convoy of a dozen trucks carrying wreaths made in Maine departed Sunday for Arlington National Cemetery, where the greenery will adorn the graves of military veterans.

A box truck and 11 tractor-trailers left Columbia Falls with the bulk of the 248,000 wreaths that will be placed on grave sites in Arlington, said Susan Patten, a spokeswoman for Wreaths Across America.

The convoy was to make stops in five Maine communities on Sunday. Maine first lady Ann LePage was joining the group in Portland before the convoy leaves the state and continues south on Monday. The trucks are due to arrive in Arlington, Virginia, on Saturday.

All told, Wreaths Across America expects to ship more than 900,000 wreaths to veterans’ graves in hundreds of locations in all 50 states and overseas.

The tradition began when Morrill Worcester – owner of Worcester Wreath Co. in Harrington – ended up with 5,000 extra wreaths that he couldn’t bring to market in 1992. With the help of U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, he had them delivered to Arlington.

The tradition carried on in relative anonymity for more than a decade until photos of balsam wreaths with red bows in the snow-covered cemetery circulated online in 2005. Soon, hundreds of donors sought out Worcester, and community leaders requested wreaths for their cemeteries.

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