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APSU invites public to 25th annual Plant the Campus Red event

By: Ethan Steinquest April 9, 2024


Volunteers plant flowers and shrubs at Austin Peay State University during Plant the Campus Red on April 20, 2023. This year’s event is scheduled for April 18 and is open for public signups. | Photo by Sean McCully

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. - What began as a rebuilding effort after a tornado struck Austin Peay State University (APSU) 25 years ago has blossomed into a beloved annual tradition, and this year, the entire community is invited to join the celebration.

Signups are open for Plant the Campus Red, which will take place from 1:30 to 4 p.m. on April 18, starting at the Morgan University Center Plaza. Volunteers will work with the Montgomery County Master Gardeners to add over 4,000 plants to the campus.

“[Plant the Campus Red] continues to embody the resilience, unity and spirit of APSU and the Clarksville community,” APSU President Mike Licari said. As we come together to plant these flowers and shrubs, we not only enhance the beauty of our campus, but we honor the legacy of those who helped rebuild Austin Peay in the wake of [the 1999 tornado].” 

Wes Powell, the director of Landscape and Grounds at APSU, said the Clarksville community played a significant role in those efforts and recognizing them is an important part of the anniversary celebration.

“The fact that we’ve kept this tradition up goes to show the resiliency of our campus and how much it means to the people here to be able to take part in an event with such a big impact,” he said. “Since the original event was open to everyone in the community and the public had just as much of a part in getting campus back to where it needed to be after the tornado, I thought it would be fitting to invite them back for the 25th anniversary.”

Austin Peay will provide gardening gloves, commemorative T-shirts and free ice cream for volunteers during the event, which will be hosted in partnership with APSU Community Engagement and Sustainability and sponsored by Cumberland Tree Service.

“We try to spread the plants out so we can get as much color across campus as we can,” Powell said, noting that there will be 11 planting groups this year. “This event also serves as an Arbor Day celebration for us, so we want to plant at least one tree as well - probably two. Our hope is for everything to look really nice when people are graduating and their families come visit campus.”

Volunteers can also pick up tips for working outdoors from the Montgomery County Master Gardeners, who have undergone rigorous training.

“Every year, there’s at least a handful of students who come out of there having learned something from them,” Powell said. “There’s a wealth of information in the volunteers who have gone through that training, and they’re more than happy to share with anybody who wants to learn.”

In addition to the educational benefits, Plant the Campus Red provides a unique opportunity for the community to come together and engage with one another.

“Students, faculty, staff and retirees all come and take part in this event, and there aren’t very many events that bring all those people together,” Powell said. “It’s intense and we plant a lot of flowers, but I do want people to socialize, talk and learn something about the people they’re working with. That makes it a lot more fun.”