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Porter County Government Reporter

Senior reporter Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.

After a lengthy birthday party, the elation can start slipping away like air from a month-old balloon.

I’m talking about Indiana’s bicentennial celebration, which ended with the 200th anniversary of statehood last Sunday, Dec. 11.

It would be easy to compare the 200th anniversary with the 100th anniversary and say the centennial was better. After all, Indiana’s state parks system was created in 1916. And there was a movie, “Indiana,” made for the state’s centennial. Those are impressive accomplishments as birthday gifts for the state’s future.

Region's contributions

But there was a lot accomplished for Indiana’s bicentennial, too.

The Indiana Bicentennial Commission hoped for 200 bicentennial legacy projects across the state’s 92 counties. Hoosiers, being overachievers when given a challenge, had some 1,600 projects given the commission’s official endorsement.

One of those was digitization of The Times’ microfilm. You’ll find a link to what has been accomplished at nwi.com/history. Just click on the Hoosier State Chronicles link.

While you’re there, you’ll see a website built for Indiana’s bicentennial with a special focus on Northwest Indiana. There’s a lot of history to celebrate, and you can spend hours looking at it through the nwi.com/history website.

That website will continue. We’re adding more content to it in the future, feeding the appetite for knowledge of the Region and its role in state and world events.

Over the bicentennial celebration, The Times partnered with local historical societies to produce two pictorial history books. We produced a special section on historic front pages last February, and there were four special sections in March devoted to Then & Now, looking at the Region’s history and how it has shaped the present and will influence the future.

We also partnered with historical societies and Valparaiso University’s Center for Civic Reflection to host a series of discussions about the Region’s past and future. We’ll continue to talk about the future and the past as well.

Statewide celebration

At the state level, bicentennial coordinator Perry Hammock and his staff worked hard to set an example of how to celebrate a state’s 200th birthday. Illinois, which turns 200 in 2018, would do well to follow this lead.

One of the lasting legacies for Indiana is the Bicentennial Plaza at the Statehouse, something envisioned for Indiana’s centennial but not accomplished until 100 years later.

The Statehouse Education Center will improve visits to the Statehouse. More than 50,000 people in groups visit the Statehouse each year, and 80 percent of them are children. The center will give them more information about the Statehouse and Hoosier history.

The Indiana State Archives will get a new building in downtown Indianapolis to house Indiana’s most important documents.

The Bicentennial Nature Trust has expanded the state park system created in 1916. The goal is to have public land available within 20 miles of every Hoosier, and Hammock said last weekend that has been nearly accomplished.

The Bicentennial Torch Relay took 21st century torches, designed by Purdue University, throughout all 92 counties. More than 4,000 Hoosiers were nominated to be torchbearers.

A herd of about 170 bison — the bisontennial — was created for the state’s largest public art project. The artistic interpretations on these sculptures have been inspiring.

A bicentennial visioning project invited forward-thinking Hoosier leaders to identify significant goals for Indiana to accomplish over the next 50 years.

I could go on and on about what was done locally and statewide in honor of the bicentennial. Suffice it to say there has been quite a legacy created.

What's next

But now that the bicentennial has been celebrated, what’s next?

As the Indiana Bicentennial Commission winds down during the next few months, its challenge is to write a large report to recap the bicentennial like the one done for Indiana’s centennial. Hammock brought in a professional writer to help with that.

“If I do that, it will be a slipcased six-volume edition like 'War and Peace' because there’s so much more activity,” he said. “There are so many more big projects.”

“There will be written records, there will be visual records,” Hammock said.

“One of the things we’re facing is how do you archive something that has been primarily electronic. We keep all our email traffic.”

I gave him special sections from The Times to include in the state’s archives.

I won’t be around for the state’s 250th anniversary in 2066, but I’m glad my heirs will know the bicentennial was celebrated in a big way — and that we in 2016 cared about the state’s future as well.

Porter/LaPorte Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or Doug.Ross@nwi.com. Follow him at www.facebook.com/doug.ross1 and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer's.

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