Commission hears bicentennial plans
As the birthplace of the state of Indiana, Harrison Countians can easily forget that 91 other counties in Indiana are also planning bicentennial events for the Hoosier state’s 200th birthday in 2016.
The Indiana Bicentennial Commission, formed in December 2011 by former Gov. Mitch Daniels, met for nearly three hours at the Leora Brown School in Corydon last week and, in addition to regular state bicentennial business, gave local counties a chance to discuss their plans for the big year.
Afterward, some members, including Indiana First Lady Karen Pence, went to the First State Capitol Building to learn more about the history of Corydon and its place in state history, as well as get a run-down of the renovation work being done on the Corydon town square.
Attending were 10 members of the 16-member commission, co-chaired by Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman and former U.S. Congressman Lee Hamilton, oversee the planning and execution of a statewide celebration for Indiana’s 200th birthday. Also on hand with Hamilton, Skillman and Pence, who is serving as Bicentennial Ambassador, were State Rep. Charlie Brown, Tony George, Dr. James H. Madison, Mary McConnell and C. James McCormick.
Before a select choir from Corydon Intermediate School sang two spiritual hymns and Maxine Brown gave a brief history of the school and African-American history in early Indiana, dignitaries from Harrison County government received a sign from the state for the Morvin’s Landing site to mark it as property acquired by the Bicentennial Nature Trust to protect the land for conservation and recreation.
The 118-acre property is the former site of a platted town known as Morvin and served as a ferry landing until the 1966 completion of the Matthew E. Welsh Bridge two miles downstream at Mauckport. While the Morvin’s Landing property has tremendous historic significance, it also contains several diverse habitat areas, including river buffer, wetlands and several threatened and endangered plant species.
Other parts of the Bicentennial Nature Trust that Harrison County is a part of include the Ohio River Glades Conservation Area, which covers the steep ridges along the Ohio River extending from New Albany in Floyd County to the southern tip of Harrison County, and Blue River frontage, which includes 73.4 acres of upland forestland with a bluff overlooking a quarter mile of frontage along Blue River in Harrison County.
So far, the BNT has approved 142 projects in 61 counties and closed on more than 7,800 acres (12 square miles) in the state.
Leading off in the county presentations was Harrison co-chair Pamela Bennett Martin, who spoke alongside Jeremy Yackle and did a quick overview of the many events scheduled to take place next year in the county.
Just a sampling of the happenings include an African-American history celebration in February, the return of Indiana’s constitution from June 9 through 29 and an art festival on the square from June 17 through 19.
‘From what I understand, this will be the first time the constitution has left Indianapolis since 1825, so we are thrilled about that,’ Martin said. ‘It’ll be carried in on a wagon, and we’ll have a parade, and we’ll have full security at all time. On June 29, we are working with Gov. Pence’s office, and he’s supposed to be here to bring the constitution back to Indianapolis.’
Much of the presentation by Sharon Wilson from Crawford County dealt with the Bicentennial Torch Relay, which starts in Harrison County and visits each of Indiana’s counties; Clark County’s Jeanne Burke described how the original town site along the Ohio River will be marked with the original street names, as well as the buffalo trace, or Gen. George Rogers Clark’s Old War Road, to Vincennes and how there is to be a special marker placed in Charlestown at the burial site of Indiana’s first governor, Jonathan Jennings; and Imojean Dedrick of Orange County hoped that in August her committee could get members of the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs to visit West Baden Springs and French Lick Resort to re-enact spring training photos from World War II.
Other ideas still being discussed include a statewide art project called the ‘Bison-tennial,’ in which large bison would be painted by a child artist in each county and put on display. The bison would then be sent to the Indiana State Fairgrounds for display. Also, there is talk of adding a bicentennial baby bundle, which would, hopefully, help reduce Indiana’s infant mortality rate.
Expectant mothers would enroll in the program and, if completed, would receive a mattress, waterproof cover, cotton sheet and other items such as onesies, diapers, blankets and educational documents, covering topics like tobacco cessation and safe sleep practices.
The final meetings of the commission in 2015 are scheduled for Sept. 18 at the Lake County Courthouse and Nov. 6 at a yet-to-be-determined location in Fort Wayne. Five meetings have been scheduled for 2016; only a Jan. 8 date in Evansville is listed as a site for the meetings.