Saturday's clearing skies brought scores of Loudoun county families to The Hill School in Middleburg to celebrate the county's 23rd Arbor Day commemoration.
Kids clambered up into a large wagon that headed the annual parade, along with fire department vehicles and tree care trucks, as it wound around the Dornin Science Building at the school, while their elders inspected the various arboreal exhibits, Arbor Day Photo and Poster Contest winning entries and took advantage of free tree seedlings being given away.
Master of Ceremonies Ryan Reed opened the formal program, introducing Hill School Headmaster Treavor Lord who welcomed the crowd sitting before him on straw bales to the school, which has more than 500 species of trees on the 137-acre property. Originally established on three acres of land in 1928, the school was able to expand with the gift of 135 acres donated by The Plains Road landowner Stephen Clark and his daughter Jane in 1991. The school planted an arboretum and maintains a number of environmental programs.
The annual event is put on by the county government's natural resources team, of which County Urban Forester/Arborist Dana Malone has been a leading member for the 23 years of the Arbor Day celebration. This year's Arbor Day Tree, a sawtooth oak, has not been planted yet because of the wet conditions, but Malone said he hopes Shady Lane Tree Movers again will be able to donate its services to plant the tree soon, which will be dedicated to the memory of LeRoy "Coolie" Edwards.
Edwards, whose house formed a backdrop to the celebration, was celebrated as something of a "character" around Middleburg and worked for the Clark family, taking care of the land as carefully "as if it were his own," Malone said. Edwards had been a gifted baseball catcher in the ‘30s and ‘40s when the town had a baseball team, Malone said, before going on to coach from the 1950s to the 1970s.
Loudoun County Circuit Judge Thomas D. Horne led the Pledge of Allegiance, as he has done for many years, with the assistance of Girl Scout and Cub Scout troops. After the four winners in the annual Best Loudoun Tree Photo Contest-Craig Ross, Marc Sagan, Jessica McCann and Teresa Davenport-were recognized, County Administrator Tim Hemstreet delivered the keynote address.
He noted the county's celebration of Arbor Day dated back to Leesburg's push to become a Tree City U.S.A. in 1990. Today, Leesburg, Middleburg and Purcellville have achieved the designation, and Hemstreet noted the county's "rich heritage of recognizing the values of trees" in various locations including Ida Lee Park, Morven Park, Banshee Reeks, Oatlands and The Hill School.
Using the student Arbor Day Poster Contest theme of "Trees are the Anchors of the Earth," Hemstreet likened a tree's need for deep roots to anchor the earth to human beings' need for a strong foundation from which they can develop successfully. As the county and its residents prepare to face changes, "without a strong root system we wouldn't survive," Hemstreet told his audience.
Addressing the students directly, Hemstreet said, "You will see incredible changes in your life." He urged them to "take time to pay attention to your roots; that will sustain you throughout life" and enable them to build a strong foundation for the next generation.
Assistant Superintendent of Support Services Jeffrey Platenburg, standing in for Loudoun Public Schools Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick, echoed Hemstreet's analogy. Noting he was the parent of a past poster contest winner, Platenburg told the top 50 contest winners, headed by Harper Park Middle School 7th grader Tina Pham, their achievements were something of which they should be very proud. "Your dreams and visions are the seeds of our future."
The formal ceremony ended with parental cameras clicking as students lined up to shake hands with county leaders and receive a handsome wooden bird house for their efforts, before tucking into a gooey, delicious chocolate cake, cut and served by Malone, Hemstreet and Horne.