- Associated Press - Saturday, March 15, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - With less than three years before Nebraska’s 150th birthday, lawmakers and volunteers already are planning the party.

Earlier this month, the Legislature gave first-round approval to a bill that would create the Nebraska Sesquicentennial Commission. Nebraska became a state on March 1, 1867.

Sen. Bill Avery introduced the bill, which he said will help ensure the state has an appropriate celebration for the anniversary.

The commission would work with various state departments and groups - such as the Department of Education, the Nebraska State Fair Board and the Nebraska Tourism Commission - to develop programs and plans for the official observance of the anniversary. The 17 members would come from various professional backgrounds around the state and be appointed by the governor.


“We don’t want anybody to be left out,” the legislator from Lincoln said.

The state also created commissions for the 100th and 125th celebrations, Avery said.

Sen. John Nelson of Omaha supports forming the commission, and also introduced an effort to build four fountains in the Nebraska Capitol’s open-air courtyards.

The Depression kept the state from completing the fountains, which are the last unfinished design feature of the Capitol. It was built in stages between 1922 and 1932. Nelson hopes to see the fountains completed by 2017.

The Legislature included $2.5 million for the fountains in its budget, which received first-round approval March 11. The budget faces two more votes before the Legislature.

Meanwhile, volunteers with the Nebraska 150 Sesquicentennial Committee have been gearing up for the birthday since 2012.

The group is trying to build things that are going to benefit the state in the future, not just celebrate the past, said Roger Ludemann, interim executive director. It’s particularly interested in projects with educational benefits, and has also considered a project to put together 150 environmental projects throughout the state to feature pure water projects and native grasses, he said.

The goal is to have participation in every community, every county in the state for the sesquicentennial, committee chair Jeff Searcy said.

“It’s really up to the creativity of Nebraskans to really have the kind of sesquicentennial not only celebration but commemoration that they want to be able to have,” Searcy said.

Earlier this year, the group released the official seal for the sesquicentennial - its images include sandhill cranes, Chimney Rock and the Platte River. The seal will be made into a collectible silver medallion.

The group plans to unveil four more seals in the future relating to Native Americans, the transcontinental railroad, agriculture and the Capitol.

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