City to celebrate state bicentennial

A statewide bicentennial and a local centennial will converge in Columbus late this summer.

Sept. 18 will be the day when the Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay, which travels along a 3,200 mile route through all 92 Indiana counties, arrives in Columbus.

Although a number of events are planned that Sunday for the relay, the torch is now also scheduled to be a part of a special observance that day in Donner Park, which is celebrating its 100th birthday this year, said Lynn Lucas, local bicentennial coordinator.

Lucas gave an update during the Indiana Bicentennial Commission monthly meeting Friday, hosted by the Columbus Visitors Center.

The torch will make its way through Hartsville and past Simmons Winery near Hope, where events also are planned, before making its way to several landmarks in Columbus, Lucas told the commission members.

After the torch leaves Donner Center, it will be brought to the Bartholomew County Public Library plaza when a large community celebration is being planned, she said.

Highlights will include “Steps Through Time,” a 31-piece exhibit of local history over three days that will include the 1936 diesel Cadillac owned by Clessie Cummins, who founded Cummins Inc., Lucas said.

Musical acts will include the Tim Grimm Family Band and the Daughters of the American Revolution Children’s Choir, which consists of grade school students from throughout the area.

After the torch leaves Columbus, it will continue its journey for another month until arriving during an Oct. 15 “Hoosier Homecoming” in Indianapolis, said Perry Hammock, bicentennial commission executive director.

The event, which will include activities at several venues west of the statehouse, will include the development of a Bicentennial Plaza along North Senate Avenue, just north of West Washington Street, in Indianapolis, Hammock said.

Besides all-day entertainment, organizers are planning to stage one of the largest military reenactments in state history that day in Military Park, located just north of the Indiana State Museum, Hammock said.

The commission has a theme of “Celebrate History — Ignite the Future,” a mantra the commission is undertaking by honoring the state’s 200 years of history in a modern way that will also leave a lasting legacy for future generations.

Although Bartholomew County has endorsed 13 legacy projects for the celebration, which are meant to provide a positive impact on local lives well into the future, more are being considered or developed, Lucas said.

On a statewide level, an estimated 1,013 legacy projects have now been approved, with more than $40 million pledged to date to fund them, Hammock said.

“That is a huge number that far exceeded our expectations,” said Indiana First Lady and commission member Karen Pence.

Other committee members who attended Friday’s meeting in Columbus were former Indiana congressman Lee Hamilton, former Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Tony George and former Indiana Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman.

Hamilton and Skillman head the commission’s “Task Force on the Health and Well-Being of Indiana Children.”

After formally asking all Hoosier groups to pay special attention to disadvantaged youth earlier this year, on Friday the commission approved 24 new youth legacy projects proposed by Hamilton.

That will raise the total number of youth legacy projects to 222 approved statewide, Hamilton said.

They range from the creation of historical coloring books to efforts intended to combat bullying and youth hunger, Hamilton said.

There are also several efforts underway to create college scholarships for deserving youth from disadvantaged homes, Hammock said.

In response, federal judge and commission member Sarah Evans Barker advocated for the creation of new programs addressing violence prevention and infant mortality, which the judge described as major issues in Indiana.

After acknowledging that President Woodrow Wilson accepted an invitation to take part in Indiana’s centennial celebration in 1916, commission members said they will issue a similar invitation to President Barack Obama.

But Hamilton urged his fellow commission members to keep in mind a presidential visit will likely take the focus away from other activities marking the state’s 200th birthday.

Indiana’s bicentennial celebration will conclude with three consecutive days of observances and celebrations from Dec. 9 through 11.

Dates to remember

Upcoming events planned to celebrate Indiana’s Bicentennial include:

June 7 – Indiana Bicentennial Stamp issued. 

Sept. 18 –  The Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay arrives in Bartholomew County.

Oct. 15 – Hoosier Homecoming event in Indianapolis.

Dec. 9 – Statehood Day

Dec. 10 – Bicentennial Celebration

Dec. 11 – “Ignite the Future” activities.  

Annual activities in Bartholomew County that are being recognized as official Bicentennial celebrations include: Spring on the Farm (May), Bartholomew County 4-H Fair (July), Hope Heritage Days (September), Mill Race Marathon (September), Ethnic Expo (October), and the Deja Vu Art Show (November).

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.