Members of the Vero Beach Centennial Committee, the Tree and Beautification Commission and the Interfaith Alliance hosted two Founders Day events the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend – a Centennial Tree Dedication at MacWilliam Park, immediately followed by an Interfaith Family Celebration on the Riverside Theatre campus.
The tree ceremony took place at a new seating area created and landscaped by the city at MacWilliam Park, south of the Barber Bridge, dedicating a 16-year-old live oak tree donated by Spencer Porteous, owner of Digg Gardens.
“Live oaks will live 300 to 400 years so that’s going to be here a long, long time,” said Porteous, adding that it was a pleasure to give back to a community that has been good to him since moving here 20 years ago.
“I hope that people will come and enjoy it, because that’s the whole idea,” said Marilyn Dussault, chair of the Tree and Beautification Commission, explaining that their function is to advise the City Council on ways to beautify the city.
“And our special duty is to make certain that we continue to be a member in good standing of Tree City USA,” she said. “We were founded Dec. 1, 1981, and for the last 37 years, Vero Beach has been a member of Tree City USA. We’re very proud of that.”
Thanking Porteous on behalf of the city, City Councilwoman Laura Moss commented on the symbolism of celebrating the deep roots of the 100-year-old city with a tree donated by a 20-year transplant. “What a rich symbol,” said Moss. “Thank you so much for your generosity; it’s greatly appreciated.”
Several other commission members – Cynthia Schwarz, Fran Robinson, Neal Roe and Catherine Booth – spoke of their collective love of Vero Beach and of trees.
“For the Centennial, we planted 25 oak trees at various schools,” said Robinson. “These children are so proud of their trees and so knowledgeable.”
“The Tree and Beautification Commission, with the Garden Club, have been a part of the fabric of Vero Beach from the very start,” said Vice Mayor Tony Young, Centennial co-chair with City Clerk Tammy Bursick, noting that the thread has continued throughout the entire celebration.
Dussalt closed the ceremony reading the dedication: “We dedicate this beautiful live oak tree to those who planted their roots here 100 years ago and continually fed, watered, pruned and nurtured their plantings to become the City of Vero Beach. May this tree be a living symbol of longevity, tranquility and continuity.”
Bursick said the Rev. Dr. Joe LaGuardia, senior pastor at First Baptist Church, had taken the lead for the Family Celebration, eventually enlisting the support of about 30 local places of worship.
“We actually started planning this about two years ago,” said Bursick. “We noticed that May 26, 1919, is actually the day that the city was incorporated, and it was on a Sunday. So we thought, it’s Sunday, so let’s ask the interfaith groups if they would like to plan this. They’ve all got tables set up and they’re there to tell about their church and give things out, and they’ve got all kinds of things for the kids to do.”
For more information, visit VeroBeach100.org.