n-springaffairpreview

The mounting problems with the Earth’s environment can often seem insurmountable to address, but for the staff at the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum, it’s an issue best confronted one plant at a time.

To that end, the organization is hosting the upcoming “Spring Affair,” an annual 3-day plant sale event in which attendees from across the Midwest will have the chance to choose from a selection of hundreds of plant species. Proceeds from the event will go towards supporting the Arboretum’s efforts around the state to strengthen communities across greater Nebraska against the growing challenges faced due to climate change.

Billed as “the Midwest’s Largest Garden Event” in a flier for the event, the Spring Affair, which will be hosted at the Lancaster Event Center from April 28-30, will oversee an expected attendance of around 4,000 people, with a 600-species variety encompassing over 25,000 plants ranging from grasses and herbs to succulents, trees and shrubs, according to Hanna Pinneo, the executive director for the Arboretum.

The event will commence with a ticketed preview sale on Thursday night from 6 to 9 p.m., allowing for shorter lines and a more social atmosphere, according to Pinneo. The pre-sale will be followed by two days of free-entry sales on Friday from 2 to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Alongside contributions fielded from various donors — a key aspect of Pinneo’s duties — funds raised from Spring Affair sales are a crucial pillar of the Arboretum’s ability to operate effectively.

“It’s our largest fundraiser of the year, so it’s how we get our operating funds as a nonprofit organization,” Pinneo said.

Thankfully for the Arboretum, a lack of funding doesn’t seem likely to be a problem any time soon.

Pinneo said that this year’s Spring Affair is slated to be one of the most-attended yet, with Thursday’s ticketed presale drawing attendees everywhere from Wyoming and Colorado to Iowa and Kansas, as well as greater Nebraska.

“[The Spring Affair] becomes more and more popular every year, which is why we’ve made a few changes to help keep lines in control,” Pinneo said. “This is the first year we’re doing three days of sales instead of two days.”

The growth of the event, which is largely focused on the sale of plants native to the Midwestern ecosystem, is something that Sarah Buckley, the program coordinator for the Arboretum, attributed largely to a heightened awareness among customers of the worsening climate across the globe.

“There’s a tension on environmental issues that’s probably the top [reason for increased demand for native plants], and we’ve kind of always been there in the background pushing sustainable landscaping,” Buckley said.

Although housed in UNL’s East Campus at Keim Hall, the Arboretum is a standalone nonprofit that’s operated independently for over 40 years, according to Pinneo. She said the Arboretum’s motto is “Planting Nebraska for healthy people, vibrant communities and a resilient environment.”

With that in mind, Buckley said the Arboretum is engaging in a wide range of ventures aimed at toughening Nebraska ecosystems, including planting diverse tree species capable of weathering broad swings in climate and native plants that are best capable of supporting the state’s insect populations.

She also emphasized the importance of programs that educate Nebraska communities, from schools to community centers. Those programs focus on education and funding for everything from gardening to green infrastructure, which focuses on protecting, restoring or mimicking the natural water cycle, according to an American Rivers article.

As the program coordinator, Buckley said she often takes a hands-on role in helping to see these programs come to fruition.

“Whatever a community tells me they want to do, I have a way to help them do that,” Buckley said. “If they have the money and they don’t know how to do it, I can connect them to resources or educate them myself, or if they know exactly what they want to do and they have no money, we have funding programs I can bring in to help them out.”

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