This weekend will likely be the busiest in the history of the Homestead National Monument of America near Beatrice. Sunday marks the 150th anniversary of its namesake, the Homestead Act of 1862.
The actual document, signed by President Lincoln, is on loan and on display. Monument superintendent Mark Engler says special events are planned on Sunday that will feature homesteading descendants from several states.
Engler says, “The majority of all the homestead states are going to be represented with volunteers traveling here to Nebraska and to Beatrice and they’ll be joining us and representing their states by carrying flags from their state.”
A forum at 4 PM on Sunday in the monument’s education center will include Nebraska U-S Senator Mike Johanns as a panelist. Johanns is the former Secretary of the U-S Department of Agriculture and Engler says he’ll speak about that federal agency.
“Interestingly, USDA was established 150 years ago on May 15th so the history of the USDA and homesteading are very close,” Engler says. “Also, within that time frame, the Morrill Act was signed, the law establishing our land grant universities.”
At 6 PM on Sunday, special presentations will be given at the Heritage Center, marking the Homestead Act’s 150th anniversary, followed by a concert given by the United States Air Force Brass in Blue from Offutt Air Force Base.
The evening will conclude with a unique laser light show around the theme of homesteading. Because of the number of people expected to attend, Engler says there will be parking at the Gage County Fairgrounds and visitors will be able to ride shuttle buses to the monument. All events are free.
By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice