By Kendra Y. Mims • Illustration by Jillian Nickel
In the land where he made a name for himself, the nation’s 16th president—or at least a bobble-headed mascot representing him—is part of the state’s publicity efforts to promote Illinois’ 200th birthday this year.
The yearlong bicentennial celebration kicked off on December 3 of last year—the same day Illinois became the 21st state of the union in 1818—and will include statewide events leading up to a birthday bash to commemorate Illinoisans’ contributions to society, honoring the people, places and things being born, built and grown in Illinois. It culminates in a star-studded bicentennial gala to be held at Chicago’s United Center on December 3.
Illinois bicentennial executive director Stuart Layne says more than 400 statewide partners have endorsed and supported the celebrations.
“We have a small team, so we’ve partnered with local communities and organizations across the state throughout the year so we can be involved and create bicentennial themes,” Layne says, noting his team’s efforts to invite and secure famous Illinoisans for the United Center gala at the end of the year.
Layne says the Illinois Bicentennial Birthday Party, featuring musical entertainment and several Hall of Fame inductions, will be a special celebration of the people and events throughout the state that make Illinois great.
“We’re working with a number of partners to invite every Illinois celebrity, entertainer and contributor. We hope to announce some of the confirmed individuals soon. If you look at the list of celebrities and artists who were born in Illinois or made their mark here, it’s extensive,” he says. “For example, the roots of Chicago blues have made a world contribution to music. There are so many great athletes and entertainers from Illinois. Some of the greatest movies of all-time were produced here, including Blues Brothers, A League of their Own and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
Layne encourages everyone—both Illinois celebrities and longtime residents alike—to take part in the special birthday celebrations.
“We have a lot of events happening, and the overall theme is to remind people why they are Illinois proud.”
Illinois residents don’t need to wait until the December gala to join the bicentennial fun. Below is a smattering of the statewide events—including those in the western suburbs—planned to celebrate Illinois’ bicentennial throughout 2018. Unless otherwise noted, events are free; for a complete event listing visit illinois200.com.
Flag Day Parade and Ice Cream Social
Army Trail Road between the Wayne Country Store and the Little Home Church in Wayne
Sunday, June 10 from 4:00 to 7:00 pm
Wayne’s ten-minute Flag Day parade often features more participants than spectators, including children on decorated bikes. A Dixieland band adds to the festive Americana atmosphere as guests enjoy ice cream and cake and the Wayne Citizen of the Year is announced.
Illinois Bicentennial Plaza Dedication
Bicentennial Plaza, 428 South Fifth Street, Springfield
Sunday, August 26 from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m.
This $2 million project to convert a parking lot into a pedestrian walkway that connects Lincoln’s Home, the Illinois Executive Mansion (which is currently being restored) and the State Capitol in Springfield showcases Springfield’s history and ties to Abraham Lincoln. Add your name to the brick walkway for $500.
We’re Gonna Party Like It’s 1818!
DuPage County Historical Museum, 102 East Wesley Street, Wheaton
Thursday, October 11 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.
Travel back in time and celebrate 19th century style with historian and performer Elizabeth “Ellie” Carlson. Sample the food, get your silhouette made, listen to speeches and dance to the music as all 32,000 Illinois residents celebrated the state’s formation 200 years ago. Tickets are free, but guests must register at dupagemuseum.org.
Ghost Road of Illinois
White Oak Library, 201 West Normantown Road, Romeoville
Tuesday, October 16 from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m.
Believers and skeptics alike can learn about haunted happenings and eerie occurrences along the thoroughfares of Illinois. David Clark from Windy City Road Warrior will discuss unexplained phenomena residents have reported while traveling along the highways and bi-ways.
State of Illinois
200th Birthday Bash and Laughing Lincoln Statue Dedication
Wentz Concert Hall, 171 East Chicago Avenue and Central Park, 104 East Benton Avenue, Naperville
Sunday, December 2 from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Proceeds from this fundraiser will benefit Naperville Century Walk. The dedication of Laughing Lincoln—a lifesize statue of Abraham Lincoln—will follow the ticketed event at Wentz Hall. The sculpture will be located near the northeast corner of Central Park, between the Blackhawk Memorial and the playground. Visit centurywalk.org to purchase tickets; the cost is $200/person.