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[SEPT. 4, 2003]  The Lincoln Sesquicentennial celebration is now history. Hundreds of community leaders and volunteers worked thousands of hours to produce an event that would last in the memories of those who are young enough until the next celebration in 50 years.

Those who tried to take in the 10-day combined art and balloon fest and the sesquicentennial are saying it will be remembered as great.

The 3 p.m. opening ceremony on Thursday, Aug. 21, at the Vietnam Wall on the Lincoln Christian College campus marked the hottest day of the year. Luckily a wind kicked up on the wide-open campus to spare the crowd the full intensity of a 105-degree heat index.

The wall provided opportunity to honor local military lost in the Vietnam War, with some families on hand to pay respects to for their loss.

Late that evening a cool front moved into the area, and though rains were frequently predicted during the days that followed, the weather remained enjoyable and did not interfere much with activities until the last day.

Did people come from out of town? Well there is no telling what percentage were visitors. But Shirley Bartelmay said that there was a guest book at the Vietnam Memorial Wall. Guards reported that not half the guests signed in, but of the 3,000 who did there were 26 from other states and from Canada.

There were many indoor and outdoor activities throughout the week. Some of the historical display and presentation highlights were the Monday lecture given by local historians at Lincoln College, the Underground Railroad display at Lincoln College and the coordinating display of quilts at the Logan County Courthouse. Quilts were a message board used by the Underground Railroad.

State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood and state Sen. Larry Bomke were in attendance with four Abraham Lincolns at the Founders Day on Wednesday. Mayor Beth Davis read a commemoration letter from President George W. Bush, who regretted his absence from the event.

A re-enactment of Abraham Lincoln christening the first city named for him and by him was performed in the morning and evening. The ceremony was conducted on the site that was a cow pasture beside railroad tracks when Lincoln poured the juice of a watermelon, dedicating the soon-to-be-developed town. A placard marks the spot at the Lincoln Depot.

 

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Famed storyteller Brian Fox Ellis delivered an animated portfolio of Abraham Lincoln and helped youngsters understand Lincolnís role in breaking the grip that slavery held on the nation.

The aroma of food filled streets that were lined with vendors manning grills. There were all the usual festival-type foods, from corn dogs to funnel cakes, as well as the local specialties found at the ethnic festival in Scully Park.

Crowds filled the streets downtown to listen and dance to live bands from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

The dance floor and viewing area were packed at the Elks Club as hoop skirts swayed and gents bowed to the music of the 33rd Infantry Regimental Band.

On the final day Sunday, Aug. 31, rain canceled the battle re-enactment, the band Slingshot moved to the LCC Warehouse (their student union building), and the Christian band Petra postponed. The celebrationís closing performance by the Illinois Symphony moved to the Lincoln Christian College chapel.

The sesquicentennial was so good that both young folks and older folks were often heard speculating about standing in the same place in 50 years. "Letís see, Iíll be 73 in 50 years. I can see being here watching," one young gal said while music blasted on stage. "Iíll be (three digits) in 50 years," security coordinator Dan Fulscher said. "Iíll be here, but I wonít be doing this."

These are just a few of the activities that took place during the Lincoln Sesquicentennial celebration. There were hundreds of things to do, see, hear. Thousands of people made it happen. It can be said unequivocally that the city and name of Lincoln were truly glorified by those in attendance and by the long hours of dedication by city and county employees, leaders and by volunteers that organized the celebration.

  [Jan Youngquist]

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