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Arbor Day

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A Time to Celebrate Trees

Arbor Day is a national observance that celebrates the role of trees in our lives and promotes tree planting and care. First celebrated in 1872, it was established as a way to encourage farmers and homesteaders to plant trees that would provide shade, shelter, food, fuel and beauty to open areas. In New York, Arbor Day is traditionally celebrated the last Friday in April. However, communities around the state can celebrate Arbor Day any day of the year.

Unlike other holidays, many of which honor people or past events, Arbor Day promotes a better future. Young people are our future foresters and leaders. This day reminds us to share our knowledge with today's youth of the importance of trees and how to care for them.

Arbor Day Poster Contest

2022 arbor day poster features trees with yellow and orange leaves along a misty road
2022 poster - photo by Robert McCloud

Each year the public is invited to submit photography and/or artwork to be considered for the State Arbor Day Poster. DEC prints thousands of posters for distribution to the 3,500 NYS schools, the NYS Fair, and other venues. It is a long-time tradition and the posters have become collector's items for many.

The 2023 Arbor Day Poster Contest is open for submissions starting 9/12/2022.

Contest Rules

  • Both photographs and original artwork (paintings, drawings, etc.) may be submitted.
  • Photographs must be taken in New York State, and artwork must be of a NYS location.
  • Healthy trees without major defects tend to receive preference in judging.
  • Photos or digital scans of artwork must be submitted electronically and the quality must be at least 300 dpi at 8"x10".
  • Model consent forms are required for any person who is a focus of a photo, or if the photo features a partially or wholly visible face or likeness.
    • In any uncertain situation, assume that model consent is required.
  • Only one submission per person is allowed.
  • Submissions must be received by 12/31/2022.

To submit your photography and/or artwork you must:

Teachers and Arbor Day

Are you an educator interested in holding an Arbor Day poster contest within your classroom? Visit the teacher resources page for themes, lesson plans, and more!

Arbor Day Celebration Ideas

Arbor Day is a great opportunity to promote tree planting and tree care within your school and community. Tree related activities, games and programs create excitement and promote participation in the event. Here are some examples.

photo of Arbor Day ceremony - a group of children and three adults planting trees
Celebrate as a Community
  • Hold an Arbor Day ceremony and honor the good stewards in your community.
  • Plant a tree in the community.
  • Organize a "Big Tree" or "Oldest Tree" search.
  • Pitch in to clean up a public park or neighborhood and clear it of litter. Don't forget to admire the neighborhood trees while you work!
  • Label street trees with sidewalk chalk to introduce locals to the trees around them. Include species, native region, and a fun fact or two.
  • Schedule local demonstrations on tree pruning techniques, tree selection, tree identification, and tree planting.
Celebrate with your Students and Youth
Celebrate with your Household
  • Check in on your backyard trees. Any new cracks, fungal growth, or dead branches? View our tips for finding an arborist if your trees need help.
  • Plant a tree in your yard or neighborhood.
  • Order tree and shrub seedlings from the State Tree Nursery and plant a living snow fence instead of one tree.
Celebrate Arbor Day Virtually
  • Create a Facebook Live video so community members can watch your Arbor Day ceremony in real time.
  • Have an online Arbor Day art or photography contest for all ages.
  • Create an Instagram hashtag where community members can post photos of their families commemorating Arbor Day.
  • Share some photos of your town's most famous trees and include some fun and educational facts about why trees are important.
  • Download our tree tags (PDF) and share photos of them on trees around town or in the local park. Community members will be shocked by the value and benefits of the trees in their neighborhood! Check out i-Tree MyTree (leaves DEC website), a simple web application that will calculate the benefits of trees in your neighborhood. You only need to know a few key facts about your tree: the species, condition, diameter, and sun exposure.

For more information about celebrating Arbor Day contact your local DEC office.

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