Nebraska turns 150 years old in 2017. St. Cecelia Cathedral’s annual flower event showcased several displays related to the state’s history. From Native Americans to Mrs. B, the 32nd annual show intertwined flowers and history. Several Omaha-area florists designed displays that shared information about specific historical events or people.
While the historical exhibits are interesting, the real stars of the show are the floral arrangements. Designing each display with the perfect flowers would seem to present a challenge for the florists.
Nebraska currently has four major Native American tribes with reservations in the state – Santee, Winnebago, Omaha and Ponca. At one point in the state’s history, more than a dozen tribes farmed or hunted in the state. The most famous Native historical figure may be Ponca Chief Standing Bear. The tribe had been forcibly moved to the Oklahoma Territory in the mid-1800s. Standing Bear’s son died and the chief wanted to bury him in their tribal homeland, which was sacred ground. Standing Bear and others were captured by the military. During a trial at Fort Omaha, Standing Bear won a major legal battle, in which Native Americans were determined to be human.
Omaha hosted the 1898 Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition (World’s Fair). It ran from June until late October. More than 2.6 million people attended the celebration, which sought to highlight the development of the west. President William McKinley was among the dignitaries attending the expo.
Nebraska’s state capitol building is one of five in the country designed as a skyscraper. Lincoln wasn’t the first capitol. Omaha’s Central High School was the state’s first capitol building. After the capital was relocated to Lincoln, the top of the building was capped with “The Sower.” He represents the state’s agriculture history.
Dozens of authors and poets have hailed from the Cornhusker State. Willa Cather. John Neihardt. Mari Sandoz. They are only a few. One poet stood out to me. My brother John was on the list used as part of the display recognizing these artists. John was a noted contemporary artist, who spoke of the struggle for Civil and Human rights for all people, not just Native Americans. He was also a recording artist, known as an impressive spoken word artist with his band Bad Dog. John was also an actor, appearing in movies such as “Thunderheart” and “Powwow Highway.”
North Platte was recognized twice during the flower show. First, about 6 million soldiers passed through the western Nebraska city during World War II. Volunteers worked to help make the stop for soldiers and sailors a good one. Coffee, fruit and donuts, as well as a friendly ear were provided by volunteers, mostly women. The North Platte Canteen gained international fame.
Buffalo Bill Cody called North Platte home. A former scout and Pony Express rider, Buffalo Bill planned to retire to his ranch there, but he was encouraged to stage a “Wild West” show in Omaha. It proved so successful that he took it on an international tour for a few years.
Taking a look at the state’s history involving religions, the flower show offered exhibits highlighting Father Flanagan’s Boys Town, St. James Orphanage (operated by nuns), the Mormon Trail’s Winter Headquarters and a look at other religions from around the world.
Nebraska’s agriculture history was highlighted in the Our Lady of Nebraska Chapel. Corn, soybeans, popcorn, wheat and other crops dominate the state’s crops. The beef industry contributes more than $12 billion annually to the state’s economy. The chapel honors agriculture with the Virgin of the Corn. She has an ear of corn in one hand.
The railroad industry has played a role in the state’s history since the Trans-continental Railroad was created in the 1860s. Omaha is home to the Union Pacific headquarters. North Platte has the world’s largest train yard.
The Spanish were the first known non-Indians to visit Nebraska. Coronado reached the state in 1541 during his expedition to find Quivira, the mythical kingdom of gold. Joining him was Catholic priest Juan de Padilla. The priest later returned to the region, where he was eventually killed by Native Americans.
Nebraska is home to the annual migration of Sandhill cranes in late winter and early spring. The Central Flyway, which consists of a 100-mile area centered by Kearney, sees more than 500,000 of the birds visit the area for several weeks during their northern migration.
Another major Nebraska attraction is Nebraska City, home of J. Sterling Morton, founder of the annual Arbor Day celebration. Arbor Day recognizes the importance of trees and serving the environment.
A famous Nebraskan was Mrs. B. Rose Blumkin was born in 1893 in Belarus, as eastern European country. After immigrating to the United States, she eventually opened Nebraska Furniture Mart with a $500 investment. She and her sons built the store into THE Omaha location for furniture, appliances and flooring deals. Mrs. B in her later years was known for wheeling and dealing with customers while sitting on her scooter. The store was later sold to Berkshire-Hathaway and its founder, Warren Buffett. Today, NFM has stores in Dallas and Kansas City.
No Nebraska-themed flower exhibit would be complete without a look at the Nebraska football team. While NU is known as the Cornhuskers today, the program went through a series of nicknames during its early days. The best known nickname was likely the Bugeaters. Nebraskans still affectionately call them that nickname from time to time.
The Cathedral flower show was once again an outstanding event. This year’s show was different from the 2016 event. A janitor vandalized some of the displays, which were based on movies. He allegedly believed they were too secular or included other religions that he couldn’t accept inside the cathedral. The janitor was fired and later fined for his actions.
The cathedral is the location for the flower show the last weekend of January.