Though this was the first of its kind in the Logan County
community, it was actually the second reception honoring Mount
Pulaski residents and natives.
The first such event was last year
as a prelude to the 175th anniversary of the town and its annual
fall festival, and it took place at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential
Library and Museum in Springfield.
Though the venue may have changed, the significance of the event
was just as important as it was one year ago.
Mount Pulaski is the proud home of the Mount Pulaski Courthouse.
It stands in the center of the city and has endured the test of
time, though it has not always been the centerpiece it is now. When
the state of Illinois hit financial hard times in the 1980s and
'90s, the state historic site in Mount Pulaski suffered neglect as a
In 1992 the city purchased the property from the state for $1 and
assumed the responsibility of keeping its doors open for visitors.
Through an all-volunteer staff, the courthouse has been made
available to the public with little help from the state since then.
In the second round of financial woes for the state, once again
many historic sites are not getting what they need financially.
Because the people of Mount Pulaski have a genuine love for their
site, they took it upon themselves to form a foundation and raise
money that would help keep the building in good repair.
Tom Martin, chairman of the foundation, served as emcee for the
reception and dinner Thursday evening. He spoke about the foundation
and the projects that have been undertaken already.
He said that as he and the foundation saw it, they could not look
to Springfield for the assistance they needed, so they had to look
to the people of Mount Pulaski instead, and the people of Mount
Pulaski were there for them, just as they always have been.
Some of the work that has been done this spring included some
serious cleaning and scraping of peeling paint from interior walls.
Martin said the group has the state's blessing in the work they
do. For the most part, with the small projects they have been
involved in, they have been able to do without permission from the
state. The larger projects that may come down the road will need
Martin said so far the state has been terrific to work with, and
the foundation feels blessed to have that relationship
Martin said the purpose of the foundation was threefold. He
emphasized it was not just about raising money. Other purposes, he
said, included increasing the number of visitors and raising
community awareness of the site.
Martin said the foundation wanted to be a good community partner,
working with local businesses and schools to raise that awareness.
The foundation treasurer, Doug Johnson, offered a brief report.
He said the foundation had a goal of accumulating $10,000 in their
coffers for future projects. He said the current bank balance is
just over $8,000.
He also noted two sizable donations that had been given Thursday
evening. Jackie West had offered a donation of $500, and Shawn and
Kimberly Tyson of Beck's Hybrids had also donated $500.
Following Johnson's report, Martin spoke again, saying that the
foundation needs volunteers to help with work projects.
The foundation will also continue trying to organize events that
bring the community together. Martin noted the street fest the
foundation had hosted this summer. He said about 400 to 500 people
had showed up to enjoy an evening of food and music. The foundation
hopes to have two to three such events each summer.
The annual recognition is another event the foundation intends to
continue. This year the event was a prelude to the fall festival,
but Martin said if anyone had a better suggestion of when to have
the event, the foundation would be open to suggestions.
After a buffet-style dinner catered by Mike Richner Catering, Guy
Fraker took the podium as the guest speaker for the night. Fraker
was introduced by his good friend Gordon Bidner, who is the Rotary
governor of District 6490, Bloomington.
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When Fraker began to speak, he said he had originally planned on
taking the podium and shaking his finger at everyone and saying,
"You have got to save this building."
However, he said he had already learned that such a demand was
not needed, as it was apparent the town loved its courthouse and
intended to take care of it.
Fraker is the author of a book about Lincoln's days in the 8th
Judicial Circuit. He told the group that this was important because
the circuit was Lincoln's first step in his journey to the White
House. He mentioned the support Lincoln had in David Davis and
Samuel Parks, who both have strong connections to the Mount Pulaski
In 1860, Lincoln turned to his friends of the circuit, Davis and
many others who practiced in the local courthouse. They went to
Chicago and represented Lincoln for the presidential nomination and
brought it home for Lincoln.
Fraker referred to the DVD he was involved in, "Prelude to the
Presidency," which was produced by WILL television. He said the
Mount Pulaski Courthouse had been chosen because it is authentic. He
said other courthouses have been turned into museums, but here the
building is as it would have been in the 1860s.
He also reminded the group that the courthouse for the county
seat was Postville, but the county seat was moved to Mount Pulaski,
primarily because of the beautiful Mount Pulaski Courthouse.
"The building cost $3,000, the county threw in $300 and the
people of Mount Pulaski provided the $2,700; so things don't change.
It is still up to you to save that building, and I'm glad you're
going to do it," he said.
Afterward, Marilyn Tanner-Blasiar was recognized with the Casmir
Pulaski Distinguished Alumni Award. Read Blasiar's biography by
Tanner-Blasiar's career is also her calling and her cause. She
spoke passionately about the work she does and drew from her
experiences as a child in Mount Pulaski to drive home some of her
She spoke about how as a child, she went out to play. In the
community, children were always outside doing something. She said
the lack of exercise among young people today is a concern that
needs to be addressed.
She also explained that one of the biggest challenges she faces
in trying to teach good nutrition is that people today don't know
how to cook good meals. She recalled again her youth and being a
part of home economics and organizations such as 4-H, and she said
there is a need for a revival of home economics programs in the
Darrell Knauer was named the Casimir Pulaski Distinguished
Citizen for this year. Read Knauer's biography by
Knauer drew a laugh from the audience when he told them he had
prepared a five-page acceptance speech for the evening, but the dog
had eaten it.
He said it was a real pleasure and honor to live in Mount Pulaski
and work with all those who volunteer their talents and time. He
spoke proudly about his children's involvement in the community and
elsewhere and praised them for their heartfelt desire to serve.
He thanked the award committee and the audience, saying it was an
honor he would cherish for the rest of his life.
Martin ended the evening with a few brief comments about the
dedication of the people of the community to keep the small town
alive and thriving.
"I truly believe this is truly one of the most special small
towns there is in America," Martin said.
[By NILA SMITH]
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