- Associated Press - Monday, February 29, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The director of a commission organizing celebrations for Nebraska’s 150th birthday next year joined with the governor and first lady Monday to announce that events will be held within driving distance of every citizen.

Sesquicentennial commission director Regan Anson said the group is promoting 12 programs so far to mark the March 1, 1867, granting of statehood for Nebraska. They include a traveling children’s museum exhibit; a three-day whistle stop train tour sponsored by Union Pacific Railroad; initiatives to hold on to state history by giving free books about Willa Cather and Chief Standing Bear to elementary and high school students; and a parade with a light show, fireworks, music and art on Centennial Mall in Lincoln.

“For a birthday normally we’d get a cake, we’d invite some friends over, we’d sing happy birthday and that would be it. That’s a very Nebraska thing to do,” said Shore, who was joined by Gov. Pete Ricketts and first lady Susanne Shore. “It’s humble, it’s understated, it’s traditional. But we think that’d be a waste of great opportunity.”

The commission will also play off the birthday number with web-based challenges like eNErgize Nebraska, a fitness program encouraging Nebraskans to walk, run, bike, or swim at least 150 miles in 2017, and Impact Nebraska, a program to track 150 hours of team volunteering service.

“Each and every community across the state has an opportunity to find their own unique way to participate in or benefit from the celebration,” Anson said. “We are here to help inspire, energize, and support those endeavors.”

Groups that have on-going events in 2017 can apply to be recognized as official projects of the Nebraska 150 Celebration.

Among the dozen events already getting the designation is a birthday party thrown by a fourth grade class in Bayard, Nebraska, and co-taught by Trevor Teichroeb.

Teichroeb said he saw the opportunity to join the Nebraska 150 celebration online and thought it’d be a way to take his students’ annual celebration to the next level.

The school had its first Nebraska birthday party last year, Teichroeb said. Fourth graders gave presentations about notable Nebraskans to the mayor and Bayard community members, a representative from the governor’s office spoke, and the school served a Nebraska lunch: roast beef, corn on the cob, Kool-Aid and salad with Dorothy Lynch dressing.

Teichroeb has not set the agenda for the 150th birthday party, but said with the school’s location only a few miles north of state landmark Chimney Rock, he would like to invite surrounding schools to celebrate in Bayard.

In 2014, the Legislature established the 17-member Nebraska Sesquicentennial Commission, which receives funding from the Legislature and a portion of proceeds from Nebraska’s Sesquicentennial license plate sales.

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