VALPARAISO — From an Olympic-style traveling torch that burns Indiana bio-fuel to a Bicentennial Celebration Gala — the Hoosier state has colossal plans for its 200th anniversary of statehood this year.
Perry Hammock, executive director of the Indiana Bicentennial Commission, gave a small group assembled at the Porter County Museum on Saturday a glimpse of those lively plans and invited Hoosiers everywhere to engage in the celebration.
Hammock said this year’s bicentennial celebration is a “grass roots” effort, with 560 communities, in 92 counties participating in a variety of activities, including “legacy projects,” festivals, art projects and community events.
“It’s a time to celebrate all of Indiana, where we’ve been, where we are, where we’re going,” Hammock said.
“Signature” projects initiated by the commission include: a Bicentennial Nature Trust, in which 8,600 acres throughout the state have been purchased and preserved for public use; the construction of Bicentennial Plaza, a “gathering place” just west of the Indianapolis statehouse; a new Statehouse Education and Welcome Center, to engage visitors, most of whom are children; and the creation of “Indiana at 200: A Celebration of the Hoosier State,” the official bicentennial commemorative book.
More than 900 “legacy projects” initiated by Hoosiers across the state include a group knitting 500 blue and gold newborn baby caps; the restoration of nearly 700 of the state’s historical markers; interviews of the state’s 1,700 centenarians; and community butterfly gardens and historical walking tours. Hammock said communities that have an idea for a legacy project can seek the the commission’s endorsement by completing an application form at www.in.gov/ibc/2351.htm.
A bicentennial torch, designed by Purdue University engineering students, will be carried 2,300 miles over five-and-a-half weeks by Hoosiers throughout the state, Hammock said. The journey begins in September at Corydon, the first state capital, and ends at the statehouse Oct. 15 in Indianapolis. Hammock said the torch will take photos at 15-minute intervals and is equipped with GPS and Wi-Fi, while a smartphone app will allow interested Hoosiers to track its progress. More than 1,800 torchbearers will pass the torch from county to county, and individuals can be nominated for the honor at www.in.gov/ibc/torchrelay/.
“Nominate who you think carries the spirit of your county,” Hammock said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Coinciding with the end of the torch’s journey is the Hoosier Homecoming on Oct. 15 — a free, family-friendly celebration at the statehouse, complete with historical re-enactors, Indiana foods and entertainment.
“Food is a great way to encourage people to tell stories,” Hammock said. “This bicentennial is really an opportunity to tell stories.”
Each county will also be responsible for decorating an 80 percent life-size replica bison as part of a “bison-tennial” public art project. All 92 bison will converge at the statehouse for the December celebrations.
Hammock hopes the enthusiasm for the state’s birthday celebration is contagious.
“We hope you are thinking about what we can do to be part of the bicentennial,” Hammock said. “It’s a good time to get young people and old people together to talk about how things have changed and what our future holds.”
For more information on the Indiana Bicentennial celebration, visit the commission’s website at www.indiana2016.org.