Arbor Day, Armed Forces Day celebrated at Riverton ceremony Saturday morning

(Riverton, Wyo.) – Three cheers went up in Riverton this morning. “Three cheers for our Country, our Military and our Trees” was the theme of today’s Armed Forces Day and Arbor Day Celebration at Riverton’s Veterans Park. Under a brilliant blue sky with just a hint of a breeze, today’s ceremony was dedicated to the memory of Bill Urbigkit, a founding member of the City of Riverton Tree Board, which was established 13 years ago.

Riverton City Council President Richard Gard served as the Master of Ceremonies.

The Riverton High School Military Science Color Guard opened the ceremony with presentation of the colors and the singing of the National Anthem. Color guard members included Nicholas Plush, Brianna Plush, Minnie Erickson and Chris Holcomb under the direction of RHS School Resource Officer and Military Science Instructor Cody Myers.

Mayor Ron Warpness presented the Arbor Day proclamation followed by Brian Russell, Wyoming Department of Forestry’s Assistant District Forester, who presented the mayor with the city’s 2014 Tree City Award flag. Russell acknowledged the work of the tree board in his remarks. “It’s been 13 years and it takes a lot of work,” he said. “Keep on planting, it’s great for conservation and a cheap way to save energy.”

The keynote speaker at the event, Pastor and businessman Aaron Justice, talked about service in his remarks, service to the community and service to the country. He acknowledged those who work on behalf of bettering their community, and those who have served in the military, honoring both Arbor Day and Armed Forces Day. (See excerpts from Justice’s remarks below)

Led by Mrs. Pat LeMasters, the Rendezvous Elementary School Choir then sang American, We. Choir members were Taylor Crook, Serenity DeLorme, Jacob Horton, Hanna Graysmick, Kailee Lynch, Ashni Marshall, Jazmine Scheirkolk, Jodi Heistman, Kristina Dickinson, Ellinor Peck, Kayleen James, Emma Scott, Janie Hurde, Jasmine Wildcat, Shakira Amos and Winter Ridgeley. The choir also sang Our Earth, Our Home and, to close the event, they sang Remember to Remember.

Representing the Riverton Tree Board, Rosie Albright talked about projects in the city undertaken by the group, including many of the trees along the Rails to Trails pathway, the city parks and green spaces, and an area of native grasses along the trail. Albright also acknowledged the poster winners from St. Stephens Indian School, St. Margarets Catholic School and Rendezvous Elementary.

The poster contest winners are:

Kindergarten: Dakayda Yarber and Dahlia Apodace

First Grade: Faylene Ridgley and Brandon Gneiting

Second Grade: Maria Crispin and Peter Corbett

Third Grade: Madison Ridgley and Jazmine Schierkolk

Fourth Grade: Michaela Fay Osborn and Josephine Willow

Fifth Grade:Joan Hough and Rylan Koeha

The winner of a potted tree was Jeri Finch.

Tree Board member Tom Johnson acknowledged the individual businesses and individuals who supported not only this event, but the work of the tree board throughout the year.

Excerpts from Aaron Justice’s keynote address are copied below:

“In 1872 when a man named Sterling Morton began a celebration of tree planting in Nebraska, I wonder if he realized just how big it would become? I wonder if he knew that Arbor Day would be celebrated around the world one day? Or that Arbor Day Foundation members would plant over 7 million trees a year? What an accomplishment.

Although we celebrate tree planting and Armed Forces Day today, we do not celebrate the mere planting of trees, we celebrate sacrifice, service and working for something bigger than ourselves.

Every time we plant a tree in our community, we give something of ourselves for others and the community as a whole.

Every time we perform some act of kindness, whether large or small, every time we go out of our way for someone else, we are taking a stand for something and against the selfishness that destroys communities.

Lance Armstrong said, “Anyone who imagines they can work alone winds up surrounded by nothing but rivals, without companions. The fact is, no one ascends alone.”

Look around you, these are your companions, not your rivals. Now is the time to put aside rivalry, divisive attitudes, and toxic ideologies. Now is the time to look beyond ourselves to a selfless service of others, of our community. Now is the time to love others as much as we love ourselves.

In 100, or even 50 years, no one will care how nice your vehile was, they will not care how big your house was, or how much you had in the bank. They will care about how you looked beyond yourself and acted selflessly, how you “planted a tree.” They will care that you said no to all the things that destroy a community.

Today I encourage you to set aside selfishness and short-sightedness. I encourage you to give yourself to something bigger and to act selflessly. Together we can create a wonderful community.”

As a special gift to those who attended, potted saplings were available to take home and plant in their yards.

Photos by Ernie Over (click on image to enlarge)