You only turn 200 once. That’s the reason Alabama decided to spend three years celebrating its bicentennial.
What started in 2017 is halfway through what will culminate on the actual bicentennial of Dec. 14, 2019. The state and communities across the state have big plans for the final year, Jay Lamar, executive director of the Alabama 200 Bicentennial Commission, told the Economic Development Association of Alabama at its Summer 2018 Conference.
“We are halfway there and we will be announcing the final year on Dec. 14,” Lamar said. “That is Alabama Day and it happens to be a Friday. So at 10 o’clock in the morning, Gov. Ivey will make an announcement for the whole state, for the whole country to know that we are about to kick off a great year.”
Starting Jan. 1, there will be events taking place in the state every week to celebrate the bicentennial. Places like Huntsville, where the first constitutional convention for the state took place, have significant milestones to mark. Other communities will celebrate their history and people in various ways.
Traveling exhibits will highlight aspects of the state history. For example, Airbus has sponsored an exhibit on the state’s rich history in aviation and aerospace.
Lamar said the long celebration has always been viewed as an economic development and tourism tool to encourage people to visit sites throughout the state. The PastPort project launched earlier this year was part of that initiative and now a mobile PastPort app has been released to further that goal.
On Aug. 3, Gov. Kay ivey announced the 200 Bicentennial Schools in the state. Earlier this year, K-12 schools submitted a proposal that engages in outreach and improvement projects to connect classrooms with their communities.
From nearly 400 entries, the top 200 projects were chosen to receive $2,000 grants to help implement those projects. Another 56 honorable mention schools will receive $500 grants.
Schools were chosen through a review process involving committees of educators, community leaders and other state residents.
“It makes me so proud to see such a strong showing of schools participating in the program,” Ivey said at the announcement.
“It is an honor to recognize these outstanding schools and their projects as we head into Alabama’s bicentennial year. The Alabama Bicentennial celebration is about bringing communities together and getting all of our citizens involved. The schools being honored are a great representation of that goal.”
The school projects range from oral histories to community gardens to mentorships.
“One of the core objectives of the bicentennial is to get Alabamians thinking about what makes our state special, and what they want it to be,” said Steve Murray, co-chair of the Bicentennial Commission’s Education Committee.
“The terrific projects developed by the Alabama Bicentennial Schools will create opportunities for students to learn about the importance of community, and to discover the ability they have to shape the future of their corner of the state.”
School involvement, teacher education and other initiatives that are part of the Alabama 200 Bicentennial Commission are meant to not only celebrate the past but look ahead to the future.
“The bicentennial is important because it is also setting the stage for our third century, Alabama’s third century, so we’re very much looking to the future as well,” Lamar said.
The actual bicentennial will be marked with a parade, birthday cake, the dedication of Bicentennial Park and other fanfare on Alabama Day, Dec. 14, 2019.