Indiana turns 200 years old and state officials are beginning to prepare for the celebration.
The bicentennial will be aimed at building on the legacy of past generations, while working to provide future Hoosiers a memory to be thankful for.
State officials are encouraging communities to focus on four key components when planning their contribution to the 2016 celebration.
Nature conservation, youth education, community involvement and historical celebration are the themes of the bicentennial.
Chris Jensen, executive director of the Bicentennial Commission, said communities should focus on more than festivals and parties.
“We want to make sure that there are legacy components with everything we take on that are long standing, that stand the test of time, that move the state of Indiana forward in 2016,” he said.
He said during the centennial celebration, in 1916, state officials presented the state park system as a gift to residents. The bicentennial is meant to build upon that gift, not supersede it.
“I pity the fool that tries to top the state park system,” Jensen said. “It’s a pretty monumental gift.”
In 2012, to help preserve and expand the state park system, Former Indiana governor, Mitch Daniels, announced the creation of the Bicentennial Nature Trust. Property that is acquired with this fund becomes a part of the public trust and is protected for future residents to use and enjoy, according to the commission’s website.
The state has identified $20 million in state funding to support the BNT and the Lilly Endowment contributed an additional $10 million grant, Jensen said.
“We think we have the weight of the state park system on our shoulders,” he said.
A goal of the bicentennial celebration is to initiate nature conservation projects in all 92 Indiana counties by the end of 2016. To date, 55 projects in 39 counties have been announced.
“The best gift we can give to future generations is preserving our land for conservation today,” Jensen said.
The Bicentennial Commission is also encouraging Indiana schools to educate students beyond basic state history. Jensen said students should be aware of how history can impact present and future generations.
“We’re working with the Commission on Higher Education and the Department of Education to think of new ways to engage young adults across the state and keep them lifelong Hoosiers,” he said.
Jensen said every Indiana community is encouraged to be involved in the bicentennial.
“We have over 500 cities and town across the state,” he said. “We think that all Hoosiers desire and deserve to have a celebration in 2016.”
Applications are being accepted for festival and project endorsement.
The Olympic style torch relay will last six weeks and travel through all 92 counties in Indiana.
Beginning in Corydon, Ind. in the fall of 2016 the torchbearers will travel by foot, combine, canoe, Indy car and “all things Indiana,” to Indianapolis. The torch will light a monument at the state capital for the next 100 years, Jensen said.
Jensen said the bicentennial officially kicks off on December 11, 2015 and projects are already getting underway.
He said he hopes people will be talking about the 2016 celebration for the next 100 years.
“You only turn 200 once,” he said.
For more information, visit www.indiana2016.org.