Chautauqua performances and a series of events are being planned in eastern Nebraska to mark next year’s 150th anniversary of the Homestead Act of 1862.
Officials at the Homestead National Monument of America near Beatrice will hold a planning meeting next week for public input and volunteer support.
Homestead Park Ranger Susan Cook says the actual anniversary date is May 20th of next year.
There will be a big celebration, presentations, speeches and a few surprises. A March symposium will be held at the University of Nebraska to help celebrate the document’s anniversary.
Cook says chautauqua performances are planned May 21st through the 25th focusing on different aspects and societal impacts of the Homestead Act.
The annual Monumental Fiddlin’ Championship will wrap up the seven-day celebration on May 26th.
A feature attraction is the actual 1862 Homestead Act document, ordinarily kept at the National Archives.
It will be brought to the Homestead National Monument of America and it will be there for a month. Cook says security preparations for the document are extensive.
The instruction book on how the document must be handled is an inch thick. Special cases are being built to hold it. It will be escorted from Washington D-C by an armed courier and an armed guard will be beside it at all times while it’s in Nebraska.
The Homestead Act was a landmark, granting most Americans the ability to claim 160-acres of undeveloped federal land west of the Mississippi River. Claimants had to be at least 21 years old, they had to live on the land for five years and show evidence of making improvements.
The September 8th public meeting at the Beatrice Municipal Auditorium conference room will begin with footage of a 1962 parade through downtown Beatrice held to mark the Centennial celebration of the Homestead Act.
Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice