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Happy birthday, Missouri! Bicentennial celebration held at statehouse

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Officials gathered at the Capitol Tuesday to celebrate 200 years of statehood, commemorating its storied history while looking forward to the future. 

Gov. Mike Parson recalled famous Missourians, from Thomas Hart Benton and Mark Twain to Harry S. Truman and Walt Disney, while looking forward to the contributions of the next generation. Parson encouraged Missourians to remember the state’s achievements and their own history within the state during a ceremony on the Capitol steps. 

“No matter whether you live in a big city or you live in the country, everything within the borders of Missouri is what makes us who we are,” Parson said. “You think of all the history of who we are and what we’ve been made of. The bicentennial is a great time for all of us to reflect a little bit, and I encourage all of you to take a little time to think of where you came from. It’s an honor to be a fellow Missourian with all of you that are here today.”

The south lawn was packed with lawmakers, statewide elected officials, members of Congress, and other Missourians celebrating 200 years of their state. Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin, Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Wilson, and State Historical Society of Missouri executive director Gary Kremer also gave remarks on the celebration. 

“It’s a great day to stop for a minute and look at all the struggles of who we are and where we’ve been,” Lt. Gov. Mike  Kehoe told The Missouri Times. “It’s a great time to think about where we’ve been and where we’re going.”

U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, who was slated to make an appearance but remained in Washington, D.C., for an important vote on an infrastructure package, commemorated the state’s milestone in a video. 

“You can’t talk about American history without talking about Missouri history, especially the men and women whose achievements shaped who we are today and where we are today,” Blunt said. “Our bicentennial is a time when we celebrate the significant contributions Missouri has made to the United States and to the world. With our remarkable past, Missouri has a bright future ahead of us.”

Parson helped unveil the Bicentennial Stamp, a tribute from the U.S. Postal Service released as part of its 2021 stamp program. The stamp depicts a photograph of Bollinger Mill State Historic Site taken by landscape photographer Charles Gurche, whose career began in Missouri. Located near Cape Girardeau, the site is a state-owned property preserving a mill and a covered bridge predating the Civil War. The park opened in 1967 and offers picnic areas and tours of the mill; its bridge is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. 

Jefferson City’s celebration kicked off Monday with the dedication of the Bicentennial Bridge, which will provide a pedestrian and bike path from the Capitol to Adrian’s Island, an area along the Missouri River. The bridge will connect to a 30-acre parkland north of the Union Pacific Railroad. The new park will include a large Bicentennial Chessboard and use columns from the renovation of the statehouse. 

Other celebrations scheduled for Tuesday included an ice cream social, tours of the Missouri Supreme Court, and various displays in the statehouse depicting the history of the state. 

The celebration will continue at this year’s State Fair, which is returning in full to commemorate the bicentennial through displays and special challenges. 

Missouri was officially incorporated as the 24th state in the union on Aug. 10, 1821.

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