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We can’t even put on a decent bicentennial celebration

Monday, Oct 16, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* You wouldn’t know it from reading this piece, but the problems started under Pat Quinn

Illinois is on the brink of its bicentennial bash, but political skirmishing that has battered the state could be blamed for late party planning, a comparatively low budget – and ultimately, its contribution to future generations.

The plans to celebrate Illinois’ Dec. 3, 1818, admission to the Union seem to pale compared with the two states that joined just prior. Indiana and Mississippi spent tens of millions of dollars and have flashy “legacy” projects to show off. The Prairie State, just 7 weeks from kicking off its yearlong festivities, is aiming to raise a modest $4 million to $6 million.

Stuart Layne, executive director of the Illinois Bicentennial, acknowledges planning got a belated start with his appointment just a year ago. While he said significant corporate and other donors are stepping up, he would not say how much has been raised.

But he dismissed the idea that 2 years of infighting in the 21st state between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who appointed him, and Democrats who control the General Assembly over a budget that is billions in the red, has hamstrung the project.

* From 2014

The state of Illinois is preparing to celebrate its 200th birthday in 2018.

Gov. Pat Quinn’s office said Monday that it has officially started planning for the state’s bicentennial. The governor signed an executive order to create the 2018 Illinois Bicentennial Commission. The volunteer commission will plan and coordinate events.

The commission will have dozens of members. The governor and other state leaders will name them. Members will come from business, labor, military, arts and other organizations.

When Illinois turned 100 in 1918 the U.S. Mint issued a commemorative 50-cent piece and two buildings were erected — the Illinois Centennial Monument in Chicago and the Centennial Building in Springfield.

* From 2016

The 2018 Illinois Bicentennial Commission was created in May 2014 by then-Gov. Pat Quinn and left in the hands of his successor, Bruce Rauner. Its official task: “The Bicentennial Commission will plan and coordinate events, activities, publications, digital media, and other developments and encourage citizen participation at all levels in every community in the state.”

That hasn’t happened. The commission’s Facebook page has made all of three posts in two years. In fact, it seems the commission hasn’t even met.

“Sad is an understatement,” says commission member Tony Leone of Springfield. ” … I’m kind of disgusted.”

* A few months later

Illinois is getting ready to celebrate a milestone. In 2018, the state turns 200.

Gov. Bruce Rauner Tuesday used his executive authority to create an office and a 51-member commission (members haven’t yet been appointed) to coordinate the festivities.

“And we want leaders from all over the state coming up with their ideas and recommendations on how we can best celebrate,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun, it’s going to be a really big deal.”

And here we sit. Click here for a list of events scheduled so far. Kinda sparse.

* From Indiana’s wrap-up

Many lasting physical legacies were created during the Bicentennial. The State Archives will preserve and display Indiana’s most important historical documents. Bicentennial Plaza offers a fitting memorial and a space for Hoosiers to rest and reflect as they visit our Statehouse. The Statehouse Education Center provides learning opportunities to the more than 60,000 annual visitors to our most important building – 80 percent of whom are children. The Bicentennial Nature Trust has preserved more than 11,000 acres of new parks, trails, wetlands and forestlands through 184 individual projects, bringing new public space within 20 miles of almost every Hoosier. This project, under the guidance of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and with the support of Lilly Endowment and the Nina Mason Pulliam Trust was the first announced and funded Bicentennial project.

It is our belief that the Bicentennial legacy will reflect our tagline, “Celebrate History. Ignite the Future.” The past year gave us all a chance to reflect on the state’s history, its future, and our place in it. The inspiration for the iconic “Bison-tennial” public art project was the fact that American Bison used to roam the Buffalo Trace across the Indiana countryside. The new Levi Coffin State Historic Site Interpretive Center demonstrates important lessons Hoosiers can learn from those came before us, like how to be citizen leaders and stand up strongly for our beliefs.

* The state also had a “Bicentennial Visioning Project.” A couple of examples

Agriculture and Rural Affairs
Promote the nobility of agriculture; provide best access to healthy foods; develop regional economic hubs; develop and maintain talent; make Indiana a center of agricultural innovation.

Arts, Leisure, Culture IconArts, Leisure and Culture
Double the size of the state park system; link urban and rural areas; integrate arts into schools; add beauty to construction projects; become the most civically involved state.


  1. - 47th Ward - Monday, Oct 16, 17 @ 1:32 pm:

    I can’t wait to find out how this is all Madigan’s fault.

  2. - Anon221 - Monday, Oct 16, 17 @ 1:35 pm:

    The State Tourism council is spending lots of dollars on their campaign. Too bad some of the videos on the IL Bicentennial site couldn’t be re-purposed to also promote Illinois tourism during the Bicentennial. Some are quite good, and show parts of Illinois people may not be aware of:

  3. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Oct 16, 17 @ 1:37 pm:

    This is 42% snark…

    If Diana Rauner has her name on any of this, this will get done.

    Diana’s “brand” can’t afford the Bicentennial go off the tracks.

  4. - Iggy - Monday, Oct 16, 17 @ 1:39 pm:

    what is there to celebrate? slow economic growth! Higher taxes! unfunded pensions! this should surely be one heck of a bash!

  5. - Anon221 - Monday, Oct 16, 17 @ 1:40 pm:

    OW- The Mansion restoration is her “contribution” ;)

  6. - Romeo - Monday, Oct 16, 17 @ 1:51 pm:

    When the house is burning down, it’s really hard to plan a party to celebrate how many years you’ve lived in the house.

  7. - Anonymous - Monday, Oct 16, 17 @ 1:51 pm:

    The ‘big deal’ thus far can be summed up with an agricultural term: cow pie.

  8. - Anonymous - Monday, Oct 16, 17 @ 1:55 pm:

    The wonders of a state with a balanced budget.

  9. - Cubs in '16 - Monday, Oct 16, 17 @ 1:56 pm:

    Rich, I humbly suggest a QOTD regarding what the official title of the Bicentennial Celebration should be.

  10. - We'll See - Monday, Oct 16, 17 @ 2:00 pm:

    The Gov bashes his State at every chance… one has to wonder about his understanding of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  11. - Anonymous - Monday, Oct 16, 17 @ 2:00 pm:

    Call me a party pooper, but why should so many resources be thrown at a meaningless birthday party? Will there be pointy hats and ice cream cake?

  12. - Sugar Corn - Monday, Oct 16, 17 @ 2:03 pm:

    Blame Quinn? Come on. He did what he was supposed to do - named a bicentennial commission, which included big Jim Thompson and other solid people from both parties and every region.

    He left about half the seats vacant so Rauner could name people too.

    Rauner flushed the whole thing in his trump-like zeal to undo everything from the former administration, and let it sit dormant for over two years.

    Even Bruce Rauner isn’t blaming Pat Quinn for this cluster, Rich.

  13. - TopHatMonocle - Monday, Oct 16, 17 @ 2:05 pm:

    Who cares about the bicentennial. Seems like Indiana basically said all the stuff they were going to do anyways was actually done in celebration of their bicentennial.

  14. - Loop Lady - Monday, Oct 16, 17 @ 2:17 pm:

    What Iggy said…celebrate what?

  15. - LXB - Monday, Oct 16, 17 @ 2:22 pm:

    I blame Shadrach Bond.

  16. - We'll See - Monday, Oct 16, 17 @ 2:27 pm:

    “…but why should so many resources be thrown at a meaningless birthday party.’
    “Who cares about the bicentennial.”

    Well, who cares about education, health and safety, agriculture/FFA, good roads, art programs etc. etc?

    People care; and people care about different things — it all part of sharing in the social contract thingy.

  17. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Oct 16, 17 @ 2:38 pm:


    The reason you have a bicentennial celebration is to recognize as a people here, our state is inportant and the significance of two centuries of existing is also a celebration of democracy and what makes this country so great.

    State pride is real. We all, at times, may look with a cynical eye the checkered past of our state, even its founding where it appears the population count seemingly was “miscalculated” to be above the needed number and a northern border that may have been farther north than what was thought to be.

    The leaders of Illinois are obvious, and I’m talking civic, industrial, commercial leaders, people who built Illinois but helped America grow too. Celebrating our own history and reflecting back on the 200 years, sometimes that also forces is all to look back, see where we are, and where we want to be.

    Maybe if we all felt more connected and see our part in this Illinois history can make for a better tomorrow by seeing what should be done today.

    I can be cynical with this, heck, my first comment oozed with cynicism, but I submitted that with a hope this can be resolved because it’s things like a celebration of a milestone that sets new markers for all of us to achieve.

    - Anon221 -

    Agreed. The work in the Mansion is really good stuff. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

  18. - Chris Robling - Monday, Oct 16, 17 @ 2:49 pm:

    The Sesquicentennial was a lot of fun and extremely well planned and promoted. Maybe we should replay it and ask everyone to think, “200, not 150.”

  19. - @MisterJayEm - Monday, Oct 16, 17 @ 2:51 pm:

    Just wait ’til Jeanne Ives learns there could be tax-funded programs affirming the bicentennial lifestyle…

    – MrJM

  20. - Rayne of Terror - Monday, Oct 16, 17 @ 3:12 pm:

    A few blocks from my parents house, they turned a golf course that surrounded the Indiana State Football Stadium into a wonderful park. There’s a 1 mile veterans memorial trail in the shape of the state of Indiana. There are 101 native trees planted. There are exercise stations and art installations. One end of the trail meets up with the bike trail that is planned to go across the entire state from Terre Haute to Richmond. They took a crappy 9 hole golf course and turned it into a wonderful park.

  21. - Lake County - Monday, Oct 16, 17 @ 3:42 pm:

    Wasn’t Lesley Munger supposed demoted to be in charge of this? What a disaster.

  22. - Shemp - Monday, Oct 16, 17 @ 4:00 pm:

    Meh. You can’t manufacture pride, and I don’t know anyone feeling prideful of this place. A few people proud of their cities, but no one is proud of this state. I have certainly grown as disillusioned as anyone and would rather not spend more than a token amount acknowledging it. I don’t get spending money on a celebration with billions in backlogs. Seems kinda how we got here.

  23. - Demoralized - Monday, Oct 16, 17 @ 4:27 pm:

    Some of you are completely oblivious to the purpose of a bicentennial celebration. Making this a half baked (or quarter baked) effort is just another embarrassing episode in a line of episodes over the past few years.

    Attitudes dismissing the celebration are just as embarrassing.

  24. - RIJ - Monday, Oct 16, 17 @ 4:34 pm:

    I’ve been waiting since I was in Jr High and celebrated the US bicentennial. I’m so sad about the lack of interest and care about it. And I blame Rauner.

  25. - lincoln's beard - Monday, Oct 16, 17 @ 4:37 pm:

    200 years was a pretty good run. Why not celebrate by splitting into three entirely new states?

  26. - d.p.gumby - Monday, Oct 16, 17 @ 4:39 pm:

    Hasn’t Madigan been in charge since 1818?

  27. - RIJ - Monday, Oct 16, 17 @ 4:40 pm:

    I still have pride in my state. I still love my state. I don’t tar the entire state for the poor performance of the political class. I am going to celebrate.

  28. - RIJ - Monday, Oct 16, 17 @ 4:41 pm:

    Gumby, no, but it feels like Rauner has.

  29. - Anonymous - Monday, Oct 16, 17 @ 5:00 pm:

    - Just wait ’til Jeanne Ives learns there could be tax-funded programs affirming the bicentennial lifestyle… -

    I’m sure she’ll get over that as long as the events adequately celebrate our rich confederate heritage.

  30. - cc - Tuesday, Oct 17, 17 @ 2:54 am:

    Someone may perhaps be more interested in and saving personal nickels and dimes for the Montana sesquicentennial.

  31. - Dome Gnome - Tuesday, Oct 17, 17 @ 3:40 am:

    I plan to celebrate the Bicentennial on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. That’s when I’ll show up to my polling place to elect a new governor.

  32. - Rabid - Tuesday, Oct 17, 17 @ 9:22 am:

    the day that Illinois stopped owning Wisconsin

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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