Kane County residents of a certain age remember the giant-economy-sized, red-white-and-blue celebration that went along with the United States’ bicentennial way back in 1976.
It was, to say the least, a big deal.
For millennials, probably the easiest way to get a flavor is just to watch the original “Rocky” movie, but if you need more evidence, encyclopedia.com calls the 200th birthday of the signing of the Declaration of Independence “the country’s most broadly celebrated anniversary.”
So, why aren’t we getting as excited about Illinois’ bicentennial, which kicked off Dec. 3? Possibly because the actual 200th birthday is still a full year away.
That’s doesn’t mean, however, there isn’t a lot of hoopla already.
Gov. Bruce Rauner and leaders of the Illinois Bicentennial Commission officially kicked off the state’s yearlong 200th birthday celebration Sunday at Fifth Third Bank Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier. Illinois Bicentennial will pay tribute to the people, places, and things that are being BORN, BUILT & GROWN in the nation’s fifth-most-populous state.
“This is an opportunity to celebrate all that has been great in our first 200 years and lay the foundation for 200 more years of growth and prosperity,” Rauner said. “Illinois is home, and the Bicentennial gives us a chance to reflect on how we can continue to make it great for our children and grandchildren.”
“Today marks Illinois’ 199th birthday,” said Lori Healey, co-chairwoman of the commission and chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority. “Illinois Bicentennial will be a yearlong celebration between Dec. 3, 2017, and Dec. 3, 2018, which will be our state’s 200th birthday.”
“The Bicentennial is a once-in-a-lifetime invitation to fall in love with Illinois all over again,” said Gloria Castillo, co-chairwoman of the commission and president and CEO of Chicago United. “Throughout the next 365 days, Illinois Bicentennial will pay tribute to the people, places, and things that are being BORN, BUILT & GROWN here every single day.”
The Navy Pier festivities mark the beginning of events and projects that the commission has planned to kick off the celebration around the state.
Some of the signature events of the year include the Illinois Bicentennial Plaza Dedication, the Illinois Bicentennial Route 66 Motorcycle Ride, the Illinois Bicentennial Celebration at Jackie Joyner Kersey Community Center, the Illinois Bicentennial Community Rock Concert in Madison County — all on Aug. 26 — and the Illinois Bicentennial Birthday Party on Dec. 3, 2018.
If you’d like to get involved, there are a ton of promotional and educational materials available on the Illinois200.com website.
Among the cool stuff is a series of bicentennial countdown videos created by Illinois high school and college students, one of which is embedded above. One hundred winners were selected, with each receiving two tickets to the matinee performance of “Hamilton” on Sunday, Dec. 3.
“The Bicentennial is all about showcasing the best of what has been born, built and grown in Illinois,” Rauner said. “The work of the young people who produced these videos is a tremendous display of talent and resourcefulness – Illinois style.”
And if you’re looking for an unusual Christmas gift this year, there’s even an official Illinois Bicentennial Online Store, where you can such things as a unisex three-quarters-sleeve T-Shirt, shatter-resistant Christmas tree ornament or J. America hoodie — all with the bicentennial logo.
Hmmm, maybe this will be similar to 1976, after all.
About the Illinois Bicentennial
Two hundred years ago, on Dec. 3, 1818, Illinois became the 21st state in the Union. Since then, the people of Illinois have banded together to transform this once-barren and uninviting land into a remarkable place of awe-inspiring beauty, accomplishment and culture. The Illinois Bicentennial is a yearlong celebration and an invitation to fall in love with Illinois all over again. Citizens are encouraged to participate in the celebration by visiting www.illinois200.com and using the hashtag #IllinoisProud.
Partners and event and project managers planning activities between Dec. 3, 2017, and Dec. 3, 2018, can apply for endorsement to become an official part of Illinois Bicentennial by visiting the PARTICIPATE page at www.Illinois200.com for more information.