The kids got to take a tree home to plant in their yards. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Overcast skies and light rain didn’t put a damper on Friday morning’s Arbor Day celebration for Philomath third graders and Kings Valley Charter School kindergarteners at the Philomath Public Works compound.

A lineup of heavy equipment provided the kids with a fun opportunity to see what it’s like to sit in the operator’s seat and across the lot, Benton County Soil and Water District had a model display set up to illustrate how pesticides flow.

Then there was the main attraction. Sitting on two tables were four types of tree species — tuliptree, redbud, white dogwood and sugar maple. At this station, the kids could pick out which one they wanted, pack it into a container with soil and take it home to plant.

Black said he was prepared for more than 100 schoolchildren to participate in the event this year.

“I bought 200 trees … we’ll plant some. We also take what’s left, we put them in pots and we grow them over here,” Black said while pointing to an area of the public works yard. “And then later on, we’ll plant them in parks — the ones that survive.”

Philomath Public Works Director Garry Black talks to the children to kick off Friday morning’s Arbor Day celebration. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Black said the city paid about $190 for the trees from the Arbor Day Foundation.

In addition to the three stations, Philomath Police’s therapy dog, Percy, was on site with Police Chief Ken Rueben to visit with the children.

Joining Benton County as a new partner at this year’s event was Pacific Power, Black said. Accompanying Pacific Power to the event was its primary tree-trimming contractor, Wright Tree Service.

A Philomath third grader sits in the seat of an excavator during Friday’s event. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Philomath has been designated as a Tree City USA community for 29 straight years. Established in 1976, the Tree City USA program defines itself as a “nationwide movement that provides the framework necessary for communities to manage and expand their public trees.”

To earn the Tree City USA recognition, cities have to meet four core standards of urban forestry management — form or maintain a tree board or department, establish a tree care ordinance, maintain a community forestry program with an annual budget of at least #2 per capita and proclaim and observe Arbor Day.

Benton County was on hand with an interactive stormwater exhibit. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Philomath first received the recognition in 1995.

Mayor Chas Jones read an Arbor Day proclamation earlier this month at a City Council meeting.

The city will host another Arbor Day event on Friday, April 28, at Skirvin Park. This celebration for the general public will begin at 11 a.m. in the horse sculpture area. Sen. Dick Anderson is scheduled to make an appearance.

Brad Fuqua

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.