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Published: 7/9/2001

Party like it's 2003

Ohio plans to throw a big birthday party in 2003, the bicentennial of statehood. However, the legislature has put a tight limit on just how much partying can be done at state expense. An expected $30 million appropriation was cut to $7.9 million for the biennium that includes the bicentennial year. The state is nearly 200 years old, hardly anybody has any concept of what the Buckeye State really means to people, and the state motto could well be changed to “We'll muddle through.”

Michigan officials must be laughing up their sleeves at the opportunity to make their neighbors and traditional rivals to the south look like a bunch of pikers when their statehood bicentennial takes place in 2037. Michigan already promotes its tourist and recreation resources with a flair that seems to elude its Ohio counterparts.

For the 2003 celebration, there will be more bicentennial barn paintings (a clever promotional device), a bicentennial bell casting project (courtesy of the Verdin Bell Co. of Cincinnati) in every county, Tall Ships in Toledo, Put-In Bay, and Cleveland, air shows and related events in Dayton, and an ambitious historical marker program (compliments of the Longaberger Co., which has put up $100,000 to help finance them.) Ohioans and others also will be able to tour a refurbished Adena, home of Ohio's pioneer governor, Thomas Worthington. All well and good as far as it goes.

But now, quite late in the game, the Bicentennial Commission will have to rattle the cup for contributions from other corporate sponsors. (Even a year's warning that a budget crunch was coming would have helped; instead, lawmakers seemed to be on track for a generous appropriation until just a few months ago.) A statewide advertising and marketing program has been dropped, and a televised history of Ohio will be shown only if private funding is obtained. That would be a good cause for a public-spirited donor.

As far as is known, nothing is being planned in the way of a volume of history or historical essays interpreting for Ohioans, especially young people, what 200 years of Buckeye State history means and reminding them just what Ohio contributed to the young republic it joined as the 17th state in 1803. By comparison, take a look at the handsomely illustrated, oversize book put out under the auspices of the University of Michigan Clements Library for the 300th anniversary of the founding of Detroit.

Bicentennial officials and their hard-working field representatives have labored to prepare a large and variegated population to stage and enjoy a bicentennial blast in 2003.

Maybe legislators began to worry about the prospect that their constituents might have a good time celebrating the bicentennial while they themselves are stretched on the rack of the school-financing crisis and tax shortfalls. Those same lawmakers in the next breath will bemoan the lack of interest in and knowledge of Ohio history, especially among Ohio young people.

Oh, well, the problem can be corrected. It's only another 100 years to the tricentennial of Ohio statehood.



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