The Project Looking Ahead students waited patiently, some nervously, for the main event — the award for the best Arbor Day poster.
When Lyle Plummer Jr.’s name was called for the first place prize, he jumped out of his seat and into the air and did a victory dance.
“I’m the best man in the world!” Plummer exclaimed, beaming as he accepted a framed first place certificate. Renz said Plummer’s posters have placed toward the top in years past but never received the ultimate title.
On Friday morning, the city of Brooksville’s Beautification Board held the 24th annual Arbor Day celebration. All students who created a poster for the contest were given an honorable mention certificate. Second place in the fourth annual contest went to D.J. Escoffery and third place was awarded to Atabey Calderon’s poster.
Hernando High School students and teachers attended the program, hosted by Beautification Board Chairman Scott Renz, as well as city officials.
Renz said an invocation before leading the pledge of allegiance, asking for a “blessing for our beautiful little town of Brooksville.” City Council member Joseph Johnston read a proclamation designating April 26, 2013, National Arbor Day. The proclamation read, in part, we “urge all citizens to celebrate Arbor Day and support efforts to protect our trees and woodlands. Further, we urge all citizens to plant trees to gladden the hearts and promote the well being of present and future generations.”
Before city crews and students filled in the dirt around a newly planted tree, Hernando County Forester Justin Draft told students about laurel wilt — a disease that infects redbay trees and other laurels that has recently spread to Hernando County. Draft also spoke about why the Florida Forest Service performed controlled burns, explaining that gopher tortoises and other animals depend on the burns to navigate through dense vegetation, and brush control reduces the risk of wildfires.
Brooksville was named Tree City USA back in 1994, and is one of about 3,400 locales across the country with the distinction.
Cities are granted Tree City USA status by applying and demonstrating four core values: a tree board/department, a tree code, a community forestry program and an Arbor Day observance.
A special day set aside for tree planting was first celebrated in Nebraska in 1872 and has since become a national tradition, according to the Arbor Day Foundation.