Arbor Day Festival Salutes Trees

Celebration and planting trees honor spirit of early Nebraska environmentalist.

| March/April 2009

  • Hide-and-seek
    A game of hide-and-seek becomes a fun learning experience with nature to nurture you.
    courtesy Arbor Day Farm and Tree Adventure
  • Reaching for treetops
    A youngster with a perfect seat – Dad's shoulders – reaches for the trees along Arbor Day Farm's Tree House Trail.
    courtesy Arbor Day Farm and Tree Adventure

  • Hide-and-seek
  • Reaching for treetops
Celebrate Arbor Day With Flair
Successfully Plant Trees 

J. Sterling Morton loved trees. In 1854, when he and his wife moved to the newly established Nebraska Territory, they began planting trees and encouraged others to do the same. Morton imported trees from around the world; he experimented with them at his Nebraska City home; he gave away trees, many to pioneers headed west.

At the time, Nebraska was a vast prairie lacking windbreaks, lumber and shade. As a newspaper publisher, territorial governor and secretary of agriculture under President Grover Cleveland, Morton promoted trees to enhance the frontier.

Today, Nebraska boasts the largest hand-planted forest in the nation and is promoting a new planting program. These trees all work to cut energy costs, beautify the landscape and improve the environment.

Morton initiated Arbor Day in 1872 as a day to plant and celebrate trees, and, for 137 years, his hometown has been keeping that legacy alive. Last year, the American Bus Association named Nebraska City’s Arbor Day celebration one of the top 100 events in the nation.

The three-day festival, which begins on the last Friday of April, includes free trees, plant sales, an array of children’s activities, tours, commemorative tree plantings, athletic events, barbecues, pancakes, wine tasting, live music, tree climbing and a cross-cut saw competition.

Oh, and a parade featuring bands, politicians and trees, trees, trees. Last year, Blue Star Mothers (moms with children in the military) floated beneath white blossoms with a sign asking everyone to “Plant a Tree for Freedom”; other groups handed out candy and trees.

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