Salem, with an estimated population of 149,305 (2006), is the second largest city in Oregon, the capital of Oregon, and the seat of Marion County. The city name of Salem is derived from the Hebrew word "Shalom" and the Arabic word "Salaam", both meaning "peace". The American Indian name for the area was Chemeketa, meaning "meeting or resting place", and was preserved in the name of the local community college. Salem's nickname is "Cherry City", due to the local cherry growing industry.
Officially established in 1844, it soon became a thriving agricultural, forestry and cultural center of the area. Today, Salem is best known for its outdoor recreation opportunities. Salem has been awarded "Tree City USA" status by the National Arbor Day Foundation for 30 years in a row for its dedication to urban forestry. Salem was the first city in Oregon to receive the award. In keeping with the city's "Cherry City" theme, flowering cherry trees have been planted along many Salem streets as well as on the Capitol Mall across from the State Capitol complex.
Salem maintains 42 city parks encompassing over a thousand acres, the largest of which is Minto-Brown Island Park with 898.9 acres. Other city parks are Bush's Pasture Park, Riverfront Park, and one of the smallest parks in the world, Waldo Park, which consists of a single Sequoia tree. In addition to the Oregon State Capitol building, and adjacent Willson Park, Salem's downtown contains the Mission Mill Museum, Hallie Ford Museum of Art, and the historic Elsinore Theatre. The tallest building in Salem, and the only one taller than the State Capitol building, is the First United Methodist Church. The current sanctuary was completed in 1878. Its tall white spire rises at the intersection of Church and State Streets across from the Capitol grounds.Local events also add a special appeal to the city and surrounding area. Annual festivals, fairs and weekend gatherings celebrating Salem's culture, history, music, and art include the Salem Saturday Market, the World Beat Festival, the Salem Art Fair & Festival, the Bite of Salem, and the Oregon State Fair. Public and private schools in the area include Chemeketa Community College, Corban College, Tokyo International University of America, Chemawa Indian School, Oregon School for the Blind, Oregon School for the Deaf, and Winema School.