Arbor Day is a public state holiday in Nebraska that is celebrated on the final Friday of every April. It is a day designed to promote the planting and appreciation of trees throughout the state in the hopes of creating a “greener” Nebraska.
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The first modern Arbor Day activities in the U.S. took place in Nebraska City, Nebraska, in the mid to late 19th Century. From there, Arbor Day spread to other states and countries, though not observed on the same day as in Nebraska.
The story began when J. Sterling Morton moved to the Nebraska region in 1854 and was struck by the absence of tree cover. Settlers in those days needed trees to break the wind, prevent erosion, and provide shade, so Mr. Morton began planting “a small forest” on his property. At his suggestion, his neighbors began to do the same.
Finally, on 10 April 1872, Morton’s idea of a special tree-planting day became a reality. A million trees were planted throughout Nebraska in one day, and those who planted the most trees in their county won awards. From that time, Arbor Day was celebrated in Nebraska, but it was only in 1885 that it became an official holiday. Also in 1885, the date was moved to 22 April because that was Morton’s birthday. In 1989, however, it was moved to the present date.
Arbor Day is a time when many go out to plant new trees. And, though Arbor Day is a state holiday only in Nebraska, there are also numerous awards ceremonies and special events across the country centered around the importance of trees and of nature in general.
The most important Arbor Day celebration, however, takes place in Nebraska City where it all began. There are many exhibits, a fair, concerts, garden displays, and of course, the centerpiece of it all – the communal tree planting event.