GREENFIELD — In celebration of the 200th anniversary of Indiana’s statehood, the Hancock County Public Library is bringing history to life.
The library is hosting the Bicentennial Speaker Series this year, which will feature three experts in Hoosier history. The series kicked off this week with Indiana native Danny Russel posing as Abraham Lincoln to teach a crowd of more than 50 people about the 16th president’s life and childhood in the Hoosier state.
Two more speakers are tentatively scheduled for April and September, in addition to Indiana-themed events held every month through December, said Shannon Bahler, the library’s adult programming coordinator.
Story continues below gallery
“It’s going to be a celebration of Indiana all around,” Bahler said of the series, which has been endorsed by the Indiana Bicentennial Commission as a legacy project. The legacy project designation is being used to promote and support community projects and programs that highlight the best of the Hoosier state.
Library staff decided to do this series to help support the Hancock County Bicentennial Committee, said Kitty Smock, library communications manager.
“We’d love to participate and honor the state, and celebrate its birthday,” she said. “We want to be involved in all the community events that are going on, especially in Hancock County.”
At this week’s event, Russel wore Lincoln’s signature top hat and long suit and shoes that lifted him to Lincoln’s height of 6 feet 4 inches tall. His presentation featured parts of Lincoln’s famous speeches, The Gettysburg Address and “A House Divided.”
Russel inspired laughter, with his facts about Lincoln’s love of practical jokes, and silence, as he detailed the deaths of Lincoln’s mother, sister and two of his sons.
He spoke as Lincoln, describing his horror at the sight of a slave auction in Louisiana, as well as the stench of death on the battlefield at Gettysburg.
“I’m here so that you might be reminded, freedom is never free,” Russel said.
Hancock County historian Joe Skvarenina introduced the actor. He told the crowd Lincoln’s funeral train passed through Greenfield around 6 a.m. on April 30, 1865.
Carol Bryan of Greenfield attended the event with her husband. The couple are fans of Abe Lincoln, Bryan said, and she loved Russel’s interpretation.
Janet and Steve Leonard of Greenfield also were among the people who attended the first night of the speaker series.
“It’s a way to make history more alive,” Janet Leonard said.
The Indiana Bicentennial Speaker Series, hosted by the Hancock County Public Library, presents three speakers relevant to Indiana history to celebrate Indiana’s 200th birthday. Topics for the event include Indiana at 200 years old and American Indians. The first event of the series was held Tuesday night and featured President Abraham Lincoln. Two more events are scheduled in April and September.
For more information, visit hcplibrary.com