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A 175th anniversary is, admits Decatur Mayor John Schultz, an in-between event, but, with the city on the verge of its 175th year in 2011, "We need to do something. I don't think there's a right way or a wrong way to celebrate this. It's a moment in history that needs to be addressed."
What that "something" will be was discussed at two public gatherings on Wednesday at Riverside Center and some decisions were made.
The anniversary celebration will be tied to the annual Kekionga Festival, which will run from August 26-28 next year. That linkage was determined for several reasons:
• The Kekionga Festival is well established.
• The Kekionga event is historical and so is the 175th anniversary, as North Adams Superintendent Wylie Sirk noted, so that's a logical connection.
• Weather is good that time of the year.
• School is in session, so student participation will be available, including perhaps a home football game at Bellmont High School.
• The platting of Decatur may have taken place in August of 1836, according to what Steve Krull, the superintendent of the parks and recreation department, said he has heard.
• Having the celebration in late summer would allow most of the year to build up to it with promotions, publicity, and preparations at such events as Spotlight on Adams County, the Fourth of July, the Adams County 4-H Fair, Swiss Days in Berne, etc.
The initial organizers for the birthday celebration — Schultz, Decatur businessman Max Miller, and retired local banker Larry Isch — received commitments on Wednesday from five people to serve on a committee to plan events. The five are: Louise Wolpert of the Adams Public Library System, Sirk, Rich Rumpel (who wants to help set up a vehicle show), Jean Brune of Complete Printing Service, and Greg Kitson of Mind's Eye Graphics.
In addition, Krull pledged the support and use of his staff. The Decatur Chamber of Commerce will also be active, since it is the sponsor of the Kekionga Festival.
The celebration committee should have all the plans in final shape before the end of February, so fundraising and publicity can start as quickly as possible, said Schultz and Wes Kuntzman, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce.
It was said an effort must be made for wide support throughout the community from social groups, organizations, clubs, churches, schools, businesses, etc.
However, Miller said the idea is not to just involve the citizens of Decatur, but to reach out to people in a much larger area. It was noted that the Kekionga Festival will come at the same time as the large Tri-State Engine Show at Portland and the classic car show and auction at Auburn.
"The idea is to get people here and, hopefully, they'll buy something" and come back to visit afterwards, Mayor Schultz said.
It was stated that, if monetary prizes are given, $175 should be the amount awarded and if fees or admissions are charged, the cost should be $1.75.
Local art students could be challenged to create a logo for the 175th anniversary and the winning student would get $175, for example.
One comment noted that organizations, groups, churches, etc. that wish to be involved could be given one event each to set up, sponsor, and operate.
Joyce Johnson, a city resident, said the city's sesquicentennial in 1986 was a lot of fun because men grew beards and women, such as her grandmother, made clothes appropriate for 1836. Such things could be done again, she indicated.