By Jared Olar
The bicentennial year of Illinois’ admission as the 21st state in the Union commences on Dec. 3, 2017, inaugurating a year of state and local celebrations that will culminate on Dec. 3, 2018, the 200th anniversary of President James Monroe’s signing of the bill granting Illinois statehood.
Celebrations and events commemorating Illinois history are planned for the coming year not only in Springfield, but also in local communities. At the state level, the Illinois Bicentennial Kickoff will take place Dec. 3 at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum in Springfield, and the same day Winter Wonderfest in Springfield will host an Illinois Bicentennial Day. A schedule of events is available online at the official website of the Illinois Bicentennial, www.illinois200.com.
The Illinois State Historical Society is sponsoring a program to plant a “Johnny Appleseed” apple tree in each Illinois county to commemorate the bicentennial. Tazewell County Museum President Christal Dagit has purchased one of the trees for Tazewell County and donated it in the museum’s name to the Fon du Lac Farm Park in East Peoria
In Tazewell County, an official Illinois Bicentennial Committee chaired by Dagit has been meeting monthly since this summer to help coordinate local activities to commemorate the bicentennial.
Tazewell County’s celebration of the state’s bicentennial will open next month with a cannon blast in Delavan on Dec. 3, 2017 and the county will also close the bicentennial year in the same way on Dec. 3, 2018. An Illinois Bicentennial Flag Raising Ceremony will take place at 11:45 a.m. Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, on the Tazewell County Courthouse lawn, including a brief program and the raising of the bicentennial flag at noon.
Various activities to mark the bicentennial of Illinois statehood are in the planning stages in various Tazewell County communities. Among the events will be a Bicentennial Tea sponsored by the Tazewell County Museum and Pekin Woman’s Club, set for May 12, 2018, at the Mineral Springs Park Pavilion in Pekin.
To assist area schools in teaching students about the early history of our state and our county, Tazewell County’s Illinois Bicentennial Committee also will offer a historical timeline for teachers and students. The timeline, on a double-sided sheet of paper, traces Illinois’ history from the days of the Illiniwek Confederation and the French explorers down to the founding of Pekin in 1830. Copies of the timeline will be available at the Tazewell County Museum, at 15 S. Capitol St. in the old Arcade Building in downtown Pekin, and at the Pekin Public Library. (For more information about the timeline, call the library at 347-7111, ext. 2, or the county museum at 347-1215.)
Also, the Pekin Public Library is commemorating the bicentennial all year long with an Illinois Bicentennial Movie Series that will run January to December 2018. On the first Friday of each month at 11 a.m., the library will show a historical video dealing with an aspect of the history of Illinois, Tazewell County, or Pekin. The movies will be shown in the Community Room on the second floor of the library, and admission is free.
The movie series commences on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, with the showing of a 1 hour 40 minute documentary, “History of Pekin,” that was produced many years ago by the Video Pekin Project. The movie tells of the history of Pekin high school, the old Pekin Theatre, Pekin Hospital, and the Old Post Office.
This weekly column, “From the History Room,” also will highlight the people and events of early Illinois and Tazewell County starting next month and continuing through the end of Nov. 2018.