Nebraska 150 Celebration activities reach out to every corner and group
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Nebraska 150 Celebration activities reach out to every corner and group

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The year-long Nebraska 150 Celebration continues well beyond the statehood celebration that took place at the State Capitol March 1.

Programming includes web-based initiatives and community-based events designed to bridge communities, connect Nebraskans and enhance state pride, explains Regan Anson, Nebraska 150 Celebration executive director.

A 17-member commission, headed by Chairwoman Sara Crook, Nebraska 150 staff and Friends Foundation members, brainstormed events that communities and businesses would support and that would fit into their organizational time frame, Anson says. The state budget contributed $90,000 to the commission to utilize, but the initiatives are heavily supported by businesses and individual donors.

The Omaha Children’s Museum and private donors stepped in to make a Mobile Children’s Museum come to fruition. “This is our largest undertaking for the 150th, and I think it’s our most fun,” Anson shares.

The semitractor-trailer comes complete with pop-out sides and features technology-based exhibits and games that Omaha Children’s Museum staff helped develop. The museum will stop in 42 communities between April and October. Children (and adults) can answer some agriculture-related questions and try out a tornado and earthquake test after they build a structure, for starters.

Later this summer, Aug. 4-6, the Nebraska 150 Express will make a Whistle Stop Tour. The train tour will feature local celebrities and visit the communities of Omaha, Columbus, Kearney, Grand Island, North Platte, Gering, Sydney and Ogallala.

In September, the commission is planning a Salute to the Good Life festival on Centennial Mall in Lincoln. The event will tie into the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s homecoming weekend and include fireworks, food and entertainment, Anson says.

Students in grades 4 and 5 won’t have to leave their classrooms to get in on the Sesquicentennial celebration. Public and private schools will offer the Nebraska Atlas Project to fourth-graders. Fifth-graders will read “Chief Standing Bear of the Ponca” as part of the One Book, One Nebraska project, and teachers will receive a complementary curriculum. Books distributed for both projects will remain in the classrooms permanently. The Nebraska Experience will provide grants for bus trips for fourth-graders to the Capitol or sites of historical significance, thanks to help from the Nebraska Arts Council.

Everyone can get involved in the Tree Planting Initiative – a partnership with Nebraska’s Arbor Day Foundation. Donors honor a loved one by giving $20 or more to have trees planted in Nebraska’s National Forest. A $20 gift funds 25 trees.

For those who prefer a challenge, Nebraska 150 has those too. The 150 Fitness Challenge is a partnership with the Nebraska Sports Council that encourages individual and group participants to log 150 miles (or more) in 2017. An online activity converter helps convert different activities to miles, Anson shares. Participants can earn badges for achieving milestone goals and even map where they logged their miles.

“We really wanted to encourage people to get out and experience our parks and Nebraska,” says Director of Digital Communications Kevin Moser. The Fitness Challenge is an example of an activity that will continue beyond 2017, a goal of the commission. Its webpage will be gifted to the Nebraska Sports Council when the year is up.

Moser says the online initiatives are a huge emphasis as event organizers attempt to reach out to every corner of the state and every group. The initiatives allow Nebraska natives who now live out of state to participate, he adds.

Another example of an online challenge is the Nebraska Impact Initiative, sponsored by TD Ameritrade and developed with Serve Nebraska. So far, more than 100 organizations have posted volunteer opportunities on the website, which is linked to the ne150.org site. Individuals and clubs can interact with the website, too, logging their volunteer hours.

According to Anson, Nebraska was ranked No. 6 in volunteerism in 2016. “Our goal is to be ranked No. 1,” she says.

One of Nebraska First Lady Susanne Shore’s favorite programs associated with the Nebraska 150 Celebration is “Now You Know Nebraska.” The video shorts share fun facts from Nebraska history in a Schoolhouse Rock-like format. “I think they’re fun, and it’s exactly what we were going for,” Shore says.

She, husband Governor Pete Ricketts and son Roscoe are all participating in the 150 Fitness Challenge. She walks, Roscoe runs and Pete bikes. Their miles are posted on the ne150challenge.com site.

The I Am Nebraska program allows Nebraskans to share their stories via their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts or YouTube under the hash tag #IamNebraska.

“We wanted to keep it pretty nebulous and pretty open, whatever you want to tell,” explains Moser. Nebraska 150 Celebration staff members will also collect stories to post.

Overall, 13 programs are being executed in connection with the Sesquicentennial celebration. A calendar of events and map found on the Nebraska 150 website can point Nebraskans to programs planned in their area. Look for more than 300 additional events/projects that the commission has allowed to use its Nebraska 150 branding.

“This is really going to be a showpiece,” Anson says.

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