RPU branches out with Arbor Day celebration

Not many days on the calendar carry as much eco-credit as the final Friday in April: Arbor Day.

The holiday, which started in Nebraska City, Neb., 140 years ago, is a celebration of our leafy friends.

For the 10th year, Rochester Public Utilities will throw an Arbor Day celebration in Rochester. And like any good holiday, there will be treats, presents and fun.

With as many as 1,800 school children expected to attend, the celebration includes balloonists, a bean bag toss, temporary tattoos, tree climbing and a band.

And, of course, there will be 3,500 free trees of various varieties, said RPU’s Stephanie Humphrey.


The trees are being donated by RPU, Sargent’s Gardens, Maier Forest and Tree, and Rochester Parks and Recreation, and "are a little bigger than a seedling," Humphrey said.

All this is a big change from the first RPU celebration 10 years ago. "The first year it was put on right here at RPU," Humphrey said. "It was really small scale. We gave away hot dogs, a few trees, and we had a couple of booths set up in the walkway to the main building."

The second year the event moved to Peace Park, and it has grown ever since.

This year’s Arbor Day will feature special box lunches for the school kids and an art contest for grades one through five. The mayor will announce the winners at noon.

For the public, there will be hot dogs, chips, corn on the cob and cookies. At 12:30 p.m., there will be a mass tree planting, putting 100 trees under power lines at Saint Marys Park.

Teresa Whitcome of People’s Cooperative Services, one of the event co-sponsors, said the power company looked at Rochester’s Arbor Day as more than just a great day to embrace the environment; it is also a day to educate the public.

"We want people to understand where to plant trees and where not to plant trees," said RPU spokesman Tony Benson. "It’s more than just a fun event for us. There’s an education piece to this event."

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