Saturday, December 20, 2014

Our city deserves a fitting celebration of its big birthday


Ottawa is set for a big birthday this year — 150 years to be exact — and like most birthdays, it can be celebrated in a big way or quietly and discretely. We think Ottawa’s residents — past and present — have a lot to be proud of and should commemorate its sesquicentennial with the appropriate fanfare.

The city’s Charter Day anniversary is Sept. 6 — a Saturday that falls immediately after Labor Day weekend and precedes Ottawa’s popular annual Power of the Past tractor show and the Ol’ Marais River Run car show, making it a perfect day for a community celebration. A 150th birthday, however, is a significant milestone deserving of a year-long celebration.

The Franklin County Historical Society is planning a special exhibit for the celebration, but it shouldn’t be the only organization recognizing Ottawa’s historical milestone. Ottawa University’s origins run parallel to the city and are at the heart of the city’s beginnings. As such, the university should play a prominent role in the celebration too.

Ottawa is blessed with many businesses, organizations and government agencies that each could put their own twist on the city’s anniversary. The celebration can be as individualized as businesses showcasing their own Ottawa 150 appetizer special, adding an Ottawa 150 symbol to their own special event or even adding a special 150th or birthday element to the annual fireworks show. It also could be as far-reaching as the city commissioning a custom piece of public art by a local artist utilizing historical manufacturing artifacts. Schools could put together time capsules to commemorate the birthday. Or maybe a gigantic birthday cake could be part of a community picnic party.

Of course, no community celebration would be complete without a commemorative community photograph of everyone in attendance. A community online photo album and video will be a perfect way to memorialize the date. Others might want to mark the occasion with a historical parade, banners throughout the community, theatrical productions re-enacting some of the community’s most compelling times in history, perhaps a movie premiere of movies written about or filmed in the area, or even a huge powwow at one of the city’s beautiful parks as part of its Playful City designation.

Every organization can take a piece of the 150th anniversary and make it their own — for example, the Ottawa Recreation Commission could organize a 150th anniversary disc golf tournament competition for local teens or bring in a skateboard champ to perform and teach youth skateboard stunts. Similarly, other organizations could tailor events specific to their patrons, such as the library, East Central Kansas Economic Opportunity Corp., East Central Kansas Area Agency on Aging and others to match up with the 150th birthday theme.

The past 150 years have been filled with challenges and successes — events that gave the community character and strength — and it all starts with the settlers whose tenacity and vision literally paved the way for the rest of us along the Marais des Cygnes River. We believe that is worth celebrating. We’re making a wish that you’ll be a part of the celebration. Let us know how you want to commemorate the event and then plan to help us collectively blow out the candles.


— Jeanny Sharp,

editor and publisher

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