Celebrate the Bicentennial of Illinois

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In 2018, Illinois marks its bicentennial ­–­­ 200 years since the state was admitted to the Union, on Dec. 3, 1818. To celebrate, the Land of Lincoln is throwing a yearlong party, with much to explore in Chicago and beyond.

Most visits to Illinois start in Chicago, the nation’s third largest city and a financial and cultural center. This summer, many of the city’s cultural offerings will focus on local history. From June 1 to July 1, Theater Wit will debut a new musical, “Burnham’s Dream: The White City,” about the struggle to mount the 1893 World’s Fair. The Art Institute of Chicago will highlight the work of filmmakers and photographers who captured life in the city’s neighborhoods with an exhibit from May 12 to Oct. 28. And the Chicago History Museum has an exhibit opening April 7 that examines how African-American migrants from the South brought blues music to Chicago. To get the flavor of the city’s diverse culinary history, check out the Taste of Chicago from July 11-15.

History buffs should head to the state capital, Springfield, about 3½ hours south of Chicago.

In downtown Springfield, the 12-room house where Abraham Lincoln and his family lived for 17 years has been restored to its 19th-century appearance. A tour led by a National Park Service ranger looks at Lincoln’s rise as a lawyer and politician, culminating in his election as our 16th president in 1860. At the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum, visitors can see a replica of Lincoln’s boyhood log cabin. To mark the bicentennial, an exhibit running through Dec. 31 looks at the four presidents with ties to the state ­– Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. On Aug. 26, the 200th anniversary of the Illinois Constitution, there will be a dedication of Bicentennial Plaza, which connects Lincoln’s home with the state capitol.

Many other communities across the state will hold special events tied to the Illinois bicentennial, and visitors can join in the fun.

From June 27 to July 1 the Walldog Mural Festival will take place in Streator, a small town about 80 miles south of Chicago. Artists from around the world will converge on the community to create 10 to 15 murals that depict its rich historical heritage, and you can watch them at work.

The City of Peoria’s Riverfront Museum is home to the exhibit “Celebrate Illinois: 200 Years in the Land of Lincoln” through June 3, with a collection of more than 200 artifacts that tell the story of the state, while paying tribute to famous Illinois writers, artists, scientists, politicians and athletes.

In addition to the 200th anniversary of Illinois statehood, 2018 is also the 75th anniversary of the Rockford Peaches and the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. To celebrate, the City of Rockford is planning special events beginning May 30, including an exhibition game and screening of “A League of Their Own,” the movie that made the team famous.

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Terry DentonComment