County ready to mark history

GREENFIELD — Plans for celebrating Indiana’s 200th birthday in Hancock County already are underway.

A small group of residents are taking the reins to start planning celebrations of Indiana’s bicentennial.

The group is conducting a meeting tonight to get other residents involved.

Indiana will celebrate its 200 years of statehood beginning in 2016, and in addition to a variety of statewide events, counties and communities also are planning their own.

State officials hope all 6.5 million Hoosiers will participate in some type of celebrations throughout 2016. Indiana’s 200th birthday is Dec. 11, 2016.

Shelley Swift, program manager for Greenfield Main Street; Brigette Jones of the Hancock County Historical Society and the James Whitcomb Riley Boyhood Home; and Sarah Kesterson, of the Hancock County Extension Homemakers, are working together to plan the local celebration.

Swift said the group is hoping to bring the entire community together to plan events and celebrate.

One event already has a set date. For five weeks in 2016, a torch will pass through all 92 Indiana counties in honor of the bicentennial. It’s scheduled to stop in Hancock County on Oct. 14, 2016.

State organizers say the relay is patterned after the Olympic Torch Relay, and Hoosiers across the state will be nominated to be torchbearers.

The torch relay will travel about 72 miles a day for 2,300 miles total.

Locally, organizers are hoping to start gathering nominations for torchbearers in Hancock County.

The torch will likely be picked up in Hancock County at the Madison County line Oct. 14, 2016, Swift said.

It will travel around the county, most likely stopping in downtown Greenfield before heading toward Marion County, its final stop.

In addition to nominating torchbearers for the relay, Swift said she hopes residents get involved with the planning process by sharing ideas. The county can celebrate throughout 2016, she said, so events can take place all year.

“It’s just a way for Hancock County to celebrate our heritage,” Swift said. “It’s a source of pride … and we have a lot of things to be proud of here.”

Kesterson said the Hancock County Extension Homemakers organization is already finding ways to be involved in 2016’s celebration.

She submitted photos of Hancock County to be considered for use in a book being created to honor the state.

And the homemakers have planned a special project: Throughout 2016, the group will host programs in Greenfield that celebrate Hoosier home life.

Jones said organizers with the Riley home hope to unveil a new statue of Riley in 2016.

All three local bicentennial organizers say they’re looking forward to working with residents to plan events across Hancock County, and they hope residents are eager to participate.

“I think it brings people closer together when they join to celebrate and plan things and bring out the greatness of communities,” Kesterson said.

The community meeting to plan local celebrations starts at 5 p.m. today at the Greenfield Area Chamber of Commerce building, 1 Courthouse Plaza. René Stanley, deputy director of the Indiana Bicentennial Commission, will be on hand to help residents brainstorm ideas.

“We’re looking forward to great things,” Kesterson said.

If you go

The community meeting to plan local celebrations starts at 5 p.m. today at the Greenfield Area Chamber of Commerce building, 1 Courthouse Plaza.

René Stanley, deputy director of the Indiana Bicentennial Commission, will be on hand to help residents brainstorm ideas.

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Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.