Marion County County Kicks Off Count Down to Illinois Bicentennial
State's Bicentennial Flag Will Fly Over Marion County Courthouse and Salem's Bicentennial Park
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(left to right) Elected officials, Iuka 5th Grade Choir, Iuka Grade School Band and Salem American Legion Honor Guard participate in the National Anthem to open the flag raising ceremony.
Chase Thompson and Makayla Braddy raise the Illinois Bicentennial Flags that will fly over the Marion County Courthouse and Salem's Bicentennial Park during the coming year.
Photo by Bruce Kropp

Marion County and Salem officials kicked off the yearlong countdown to the State's 200th birthday at noon Monday with the raising of the Bicentennial flag.

The Iuka Grade School Band and fifth grade chorus played and sang the National Anthem and the state song 'Illinois'.

With all the State's financial problems, State Representative John Cavaletto joked about making it to 200 years.

"I don't know how long we can last sometimes I think in Springfield how can we make it another 200 years? Its a big thing. I think we are going to celebrate it on the House floor, a lot of resolutions coming from a lot of different places over the next year. Its something I think we are all witnessing great joy and like the mayor said we do have a great state."

Mayor Rex Barbee hopes many people will join the celebration.

"I want to encourage everybody weather it be schools or the American Legion or any other civic groups to put together some type of bicentennial event during this next year. Make sure that we know about it so we can get it kicked off. Illinois has a lot to offer and we have to celebrate those events sometimes."

American Legion Commander Harold Kocher says they will be celebrating their place in history.

"We are proud to be the home of the GI Bill of Rights. That helped to change a generation of veterans that came home from WWII and every conflict since. The GI Bill has provided millions of men and women a way to go to college, purchase a home and start a business. 7.8 million in WWII alone."

Kocher says the Soldiers and Sailors Reunion held for 102 years in Salem will be brought back for two days around next year's Little Egypt Festival with a dinner and other activities to honor veterans.

Marty Hayes of the Oddfellows noted they had earlier started the celebration with a donation to plant a Johnnie Appleseed Bicentennial Apple Tree on the front lawn of the courthouse.

"Johnny was active at the time of our birth. And made contributions throughout the Midwest as a pioneer, entrepreneur, and agriculturalist. He taught us that the seeds that we sew are the living part of us that are left behind for future generations to reap and enjoy."

Bicentennial Liaison Mark Decker put together the program and is working on a number of activities in the next year leading up to December 3rd, when Illinois will celebrate its 200th birthday.

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